Detroit Restaurant Writers Discuss Where They Think the Industry Should Go Next as It Rebuilds
As is tradition with Eater, we closed 2020 by interviewing local food writers and our own staff on various restaurant-related topics and posting their responses over the course of the week. Next up: Where should the restaurant industry go next in rebuilding?
Serena Maria Daniels, Founder and Editor of Tostada Magazine:
I think we are already seeing restaurants spinning to reshape their business models to address what has happened so far in the pandemic. We’ve seen chefs raise money to feed frontline workers and vulnerable communities, and work with urban farms to provide families with fresh produce. To that end, we’ve seen some public-private partnerships, which is great. We have also seen chefs and restaurants come together to work together on projects like this. I think as the industry continues to struggle, more restaurants need to find ways to work together to fill the gaps in their communities’ needs if they are to survive.
Mark Kurlyandchik, Restaurant Reviewer, Detroit Free Press:
Better care for people in the industry is the only viable option.
Melody Baetens, Restaurant Reviewer, The Detroit News:
I think now that people are comfortable getting delivery (beyond the pizza) this is becoming standard as well as ordering online. There should probably be more research into how staff can be retained and adequately compensated, as staffing was an issue for almost every restaurant owner I spoke to in 2020.
Zahir Janmohamed, Co-Founder, Racist Sandwich:
I know everyone hurts for money, but I think restaurants should raise their prices. If we all have to eat less so that workers get better wages, I think it’s worth it.
Brenna Houck, Editor, Eater Detroit:
I think in order for restaurants to keep the industry going, they need to keep innovating and finding new ways to consistently serve customers through alternatives to personal service like subscription, take-out and delivery. I also think the service industry needs to seriously consider how it treats workers and make sure they are looked after in terms of compensation and their mental and physical health. It was difficult to find enough employees before the pandemic. Now it’s exponentially more difficult and complex. The industry also has to deal with the treatment of black and brown employees and women. I also envisage more restaurants that deal with cooperative models in order to create more ownership and leadership diffusion.
Mickey Lyons, Freelance Writer, Eater:
Restaurant owners MUST take better care of their employees. One thing that became apparent as the pandemic progressed was that the restaurants and bars that were able to stay in business in any form did so because they listened to their staff and the whole team worked together to develop a plan and a new one Business model to deal with the pandemic – one that everyone felt comfortable with to be on the safe side. The creativity and specialist knowledge of your employees is your greatest asset as an owner. I’ve seen some restaurant owners try to harass their employees in an uncomfortable work environment and that won’t work in the long run. You will only lose the good people. Once we get back to normal, good people in restaurants and bars will be very scarce as so many have changed careers in the past nine months.
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