As is Eater’s annual tradition, we’re closing out 2020 by surveying local food writers (including our own staff and contributors) on various restaurant-related topics, and we’re publishing their responses in these final days of the year. (Keep an eye on the Year in Eater archive page for subsequent posts in this series.)
Of course, the survey questions look a little different this year, but we wanted to continue the tradition as a way to highlight some of the restaurants that have been there for us during this extraordinarily difficult year as we look ahead to better times in 2021.
Readers, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts by joining our Facebook group.
Up next: Where do you think the restaurant industry should go next as it rebuilds?
“A lot depends on the speed of the public health and economic recoveries, and whether unforgivably overdue government support for restaurants ever materializes, but I think we’re facing some deep structural changes to the industry. The pandemic survival tactics we’ve seen (takeout, delivery, outdoor dining, grocery sales, etc.) clearly cannot sustain most restaurants by themselves, but I expect increased importance for those offerings. The dramatic tilt of businesses toward remote work, where many employees may only come into the city to work in an office a day or two a week, means that far fewer downtown restaurants can expect to survive on lunch, catering, business entertaining, and after-work revenues. If the MBTA becomes a shell of its former self (a serious risk in my view), restaurants will struggle to find staffers who can afford to commute into town. I expect that will further decimate restaurants clustered in the heart of the city, but maybe will increase the viability of restaurants in neighborhoods with less-punishing housing costs that can retain workers who live nearby.”
“In order to successfully rebuild, the restaurant industry needs federal relief (like yesterday). Without that, what lies beyond the pandemic looks bleak, even as more people are vaccinated.
What doesn’t need federal relief is the rebuilding of restaurant industry culture. We saw a lot of restaurants speak up this year in support of Black Lives Matter after the killing of George Floyd; we also saw a lot of restaurant workers speak out against their employers, sharing their own experiences of discrimination in the work place. As restaurants work toward rebuilding financially after the pandemic, I hope they also work on rebuilding as a more inclusive, equitable industry.”
“I think that restaurants in general need to be focused at least in part on takeout/delivery since people will still be working from home long after the pandemic lessens. And this ties into what I had mentioned about ghost kitchens earlier, where actual restaurants need to compete with kitchens that do nothing but delivery.”
Joel Ang, staff writer for The Infatuation:
“Restaurants need to reconsider how they want to treat those that work for them. They were already underpaid and lacking benefits — will that change, or will ‘essential workers’ be disregarded even more in tougher economic times?”
Joel encourages readers to consider donating to Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center.
“I think the restaurant industry has to go hyper local to survive. I see the return of the ‘neighborhood spot’ coming next year. As people gain more confidence in going out again, they will be looking for trusted places to dine out, and they will most likely be sticking close to home.”
J.Q. encourages readers to consider donating to Project Restore Us.
“Before that question is addressed, we need targeted relief for the restaurant industry so there’s something left to rebuild. And after that, much of the bureaucratic red tape and licensing and permitting fees that keep restaurants down in good times should be re-examined (hello, artificial scarcity created by liquor license caps!)”
“More sustainable practices. Individual serving vessels are great for takeaway service, but climate change is just as real as COVID. These single-use plastics and other disposables are vital for restaurants, but are there better ways to reduce, reuse, or recycle these?”
Samer encourages readers to consider donating to MassUndocuFund.
“In some ways, the industry has a unique opportunity to rebuild from the ground up in the coming year. 2021 will no doubt be incredibly difficult, but maybe there’s an opening to eradicate the abuse prevalent in far too many kitchens, to pay more attention to labor issues in the industry, to even the playing field between small, independent operators and larger corporations. As someone looking in from the edge, I find myself drawn to the ‘burn it all down and start fresh’ mentality I’m hearing from some. I know, of course, that that’s overly simplistic and much easier said than done, especially by someone who’s not in the thick of it, but I am eager to see whether the industry that comes out on the other side of all this can be more equitable, more positive than the one left behind.”