December 2020: Restaurant Good News Roundup
We’ve finally made it to December in a year that inexplicably feels like five years crammed into one and yet, has passed all too quickly. It’s much easier to recall bad over good memories, which is why we think it’s important to shine a little light in the world, something we hope to continue doing. As of this writing, the restaurant industry continues to face unprecedented challenges. In the wake of the second wave of pandemic infections, restaurants worldwide have been closed to indoor traffic, relying instead on off-premise dining revenue to survive. Don’t give up hope, though, as we plunge headlong into our December 2020: Restaurant Good News Roundup to find the best and brightest going on in the world right now.
Come On Vaccine
Right now, there are 61 possible vaccinations for COVID-19 in various stages of progress, with two currently okayed for use in the U.S. A recent survey indicates that most U.S. citizens are receptive to taking a vaccine once it’s available to the public. It’s hard to say what any return to normal might look like, or if there even is a “normal” going forward. That so many are willing to take the vaccine suggests that people are ready to get out again. As vaccines are made available, they’re prioritized based on need, with the earliest vaccines going to frontline medical professionals. Currently, a conglomerate of groups has petitioned to make vaccines a priority for food workers, to help steady the supply chain and help the industry.
Until vaccines are largely available, the threat of viral contagion remains high. The good news: some incredible innovators in the restaurant industry are working hard to find creative ways to survive. Restaurants have evolved in a variety of ways, from takeout windows to pop-up food trucks. Elsewhere, one Minnesota restaurant has found a novel way to expand into outdoor seating, using ice house tents to table and isolate their guests safely. In Philadelphia, one restaurateur has established a ghost dining hall, a modern concept that utilizes a ghost kitchen model to create a host of smaller, pop-up restaurants for delivery (and, when possible, dine-in).
While federal government support in the U.S. has been underwhelming for many business owners, a few restaurateurs and industry stars have stepped up to help out. TV host Guy Fieri stepped up immediately, using his social capital and clout to raise 21 million dollars for unemployed restaurant workers. His efforts have been praised and rightfully so, as he has raised more for restaurant employees than the government.
While Fieri is the mayor of Flavortown (and our hearts), there are other celebrity chefs out there working to make a difference. In addition to transforming his fine-dining restaurant Milkwood into a community kitchen in response to social unrest, Chef Edward Lee has partnered with his local school board to help feed families in need. An extension of his work with the LEE Initiative, Lee has fought to keep restaurant employees and displaced families fed throughout a challenging year.
Throughout the year, quick-service restaurants have flourished, in part because they were positioned already to satisfy the influx of off-premise traffic. Now, fast casuals are catching up, with sales improving from quarter to quarter. Many fast casuals have seen improvements throughout the year, from adding more delivery partners to expanding their off-premise dining opportunities. Fast-casual restaurants like Sweetgreen, which specializes in healthier fare, are expanding to include drive-thrus.
In Maryland, a new bill in legislation requires healthier Happy Meals in area quick-service restaurants. The bill is intended to guide children to healthier eating habits and curb obesity.
Writing about robots is a gentle reminder that while humanity has never received jetpacks or flying cars, we’re always pushing forward to a sci-fi future. Of the innovations that the pandemic has fostered, robotic and automated technologies have ranked high, with start-ups scrambling to keep up with demand. White Castle recently added Flippy —the burger-flipping robot— many other restaurant operations have followed suit to their staff. In China, KFC unveiled their rolling chicken dispensing pods, an autonomous car delivery system that distributes to users via a touchscreen. For those looking to treat-yo’self, a London restaurant is now offering a champagne-serving bot to deliver the bubbly goods.
There’s no denying the difficulties that the restaurant industry has faced in 2020. Those challenges have underscored just how much the restaurant community works together, from individuals like Fieri or Lee to the National Restaurant Association (NRA) fighting to get federal aid for struggling restaurants. In the meantime, state and local governments around the U.S., including Washington D.C., Wisconsin, the city of Los Angeles, and more, provide relief funds for restaurants and restaurant workers.
Did we miss anything in our December 2020: Restaurant Good News Roundup? Sign off in the comments section below and let us know. We’d love to spread more of the good word.
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About the Author
Syd was a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot. At home, like the rest of the world right now, he’s finding time to play with the kids and create art.