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