Welcome to Year in Eater 2021, Eater’s annual ritual of eulogizing the past 12 months through input from the city’s top food writers. For 2021’s final week, Eater NY will be posting questions daily about New York City’s restaurant scene in the past year, with answers from those who know it best: Eater editors and friends of Eater. Now: What is your biggest hope for the restaurant industry in 2022?
Tae Yoon, NYC editor, Thrillist: That bad and problematic behavior continues to not be tolerated by both industry folks and even customers.
Kayla Stewart, food journalist: I hope the industry continues moving towards creating an environment where there’s equity, respect, and kindness at every level of the restaurant world.
John deBary, drinks expert, co-founder of Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation: That we collectively realize that hospitality workers are the core factor in making restaurants so integral and vital, so we stop treating them as costs to be managed and instead as a valuable resource to be nurtured and cared for.
Deanna Ting, senior writer, Resy: I hope that everyone in the restaurant industry can take what we’ve learned from the craziness of this year and the previous year, and that we can continue to build something better — an industry that’s more sustainable and more equitable for everyone involved. I know that’s kind of a tall order, and coming up with ways to do that are even harder, but that’s my biggest hope: that what happened, especially with the pandemic, can be a catalyst for some positive changes in the restaurant industry, especially for restaurant workers. And secondly, I hope we as diners continue to have empathy for restaurant workers. The past two years haven’t been easy for anyone, and I think if we all had more empathy for one another, that would go such a long way.
Patty Diez, project manager, Eater: That diners continue to be (or become) empathetic towards restaurant employees. Oh! And that they order directly from the restaurant and never the apps.
Ryan Sutton, chief food critic, Eater NY: We all hope that the pandemic ends, but aside from that, it would be nice to see the federal government replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, because so many small and independent establishments were shut out while chain steakhouses and fast food spots raked in millions. It would also be nice to see Congress pass the Build Back Better plan so hard-working hospitality folks and others can continue to collect the absolutely crucial child care tax credit. It’s effectively an experiment with a universal basic income and it will help make restaurant jobs slightly more sustainable for so many workers with families. Also we need to prolong enhanced and extended unemployment for those restaurant workers who remain jobless long term.
Robert Sietsema, senior food critic, Eater NY: I pray the city will truly realize the contribution of classic restaurants to our culture, on par with museums, libraries, churches, and parks, and take appropriate action. The idea that a greedy landlord can shut down an important restaurant and anchor of the community like Casa Adela with a single stroke of the pen is abhorrent. Real estate interests do not deserve to exercise complete control over every property in all circumstances, especially when contrary to the public interests.
Grace Young, cookbook author: I hope restaurants can finally experience a full recovery. Chinatown and AAPI restaurants have been battling a double virus — COVID-19 and the impact of anti-Asian hate, which has resulted in the AAPI community being afraid to dine in restaurants. It’s my wish that we can win the war against COVID-19 and anti-Asian hate.
Talia Baiocchi, editor-in-chef, Punch: After the latest string of temporary closures and a crushing feeling of deja vu, to get through whatever comes next.
Amanda Kludt, editor-in-chief, Eater: God, that we can get out of this and find a path to stability, that people find a way to get a break.
Note: Some answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.