Wednesday, January 12, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Restaurants Are Back, But.....

[NOTE: The Prairie Editor, from time to time

asks the food writer Leo Mezzrow to comment

on food issues and trends, restaurants, and

dining out. Here is his newest commentary.]


by Leo Mezzrow, guest columnist


Following the nadir of the 2020-21 global and national 

health crisis and its disastrous impact on dining out, the

restaurant industry is making a recovery, but still facing

challenges of staff employment, food supply, national

economic inflation and diner psychology.


As I have suggested might happen in past articles, there

are noticeable changes, innovations and lingering

questions about prospects. Many restaurants have closed

permanently (but most of their restaurateurs will stay in 

the business), and others, temporarily shut down, have

reopened in stages from take-out only to dining-in.

 

Menus are generally smaller, wait service often reduced or

eliminated, and prices are up.  Some restaurants no longer

use printed menus, and rely on smart phone ordering or

ordering from a counter. Kitchens are open fewer days 

and fewer hours. How these changes will be received 

over the long term is unknown, but many of them are

irreversible for the majority of restaurants if they are to

survive.


A positive sign is a surge of new restaurants, some of 

them by those who had to close down their old ones. 


Dining out is now a vital part of American culture and its

economy. Lockdowns, shutdowns, customer restrictions

and inconveniences are not going destroy this important

industry, but the pandemic has already changed it.


For those with neither the time nor the inclination to cook

at home, there is a new appreciation for going to their

favorite nearby restaurants for take-out or delivery. Those

with budget limitations, and lots of children, will go back to

family fast food restaurants — although they probably 

will find that their prices, too, have gone up.


Perhaps most of all, however, we might be entering a

period of the home amateur chef, not only including wives,

but also husbands and singles who previously took their

daily meals for granted. If you have the time.you can serve

at home some superb meals that would cost  a great deal

more in a fine restaurant — especially for those who enjoy

wine with meals (most restaurants mark-up wines

substantially.)


Hone cooking devices and ware should see new consumer

interest. One pot and crockpot recipes, always popular,

likely will surge, as will soup and baking recipes. Cookbooks,

always a bookstore staple, will be in even more demand.


Notwithstanding the inevitable increase in home cooking, the

restaurant experience will continue to be part of daily U,S,

life. How long pandemic limitations will linger is anyone’s

speculation, and how permanent its adaptions will be is  

unclear, but it seems certain that the U.S. restaurant

industry has changed and will not be quite the same as

before.



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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.