Over the last week, Eater has taken a look back at the 2020 dining scene and discussed the tumultuous year for the restaurant industry with Atlanta food writers and authorities. The experts have given their takeout standbys, named their favorite new Atlanta restaurants, offered insight into their best meals, discussed the saddest restaurant closures, weighed in on the most exciting Atlanta restaurants opening in 2021, predicted next year’s headlines, talked rebuilding the industry, and gave examples of how restaurants innovated during the pandemic.
As 2020 finally draws to a close, Atlanta food writers and restaurant authorities take stock and provide their hopes for the city’s dining scene in 2021. Responses are cut, pasted, and lightly edited.
Jennifer Zyman — Atlanta food writer and dining critic Atlanta magazine, Thrillist, Eater Atlanta, AJC; founder of “The Blissful Glutton”
That it can survive, first and foremost. My other wish is this hard reset will allow for more balance of power between the diner and restaurants. Beforehand, customers had less of a say in the transaction. Restaurants are having to meet customers where they are right now. Diners also have more access. In New York, for instance, you can get Rao’s curbside after decades of not being able to even get a reservation. And, here we see it with takeout from more upscale restaurants that didn’t offer it before the pandemic. Restaurants are catering more to our needs and wants than they did before.
Mike Jordan — Atlanta food and beverage writer Eater Atlanta, Playboy, Rolling Stone, the Wall Street Journal, Atlanta magazine; editor-in-chief of Butter ATL
I hope we find a way to make sure people who depend on the food industry can continue eating as well, and I hope those who had to walk away, temporarily or permanently, still have hope for the future.
Deborah VanTrece — chef and owner of Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours
My biggest hope for the restaurant industry is for us to continue to be recognized and supported for the invaluable industry we are! We provide jobs, support our farmers, contribute to our economy and our local communities. I think people now realize that we don’t just nourish the body, but we also nourish the soul!
Sarah Kim — partner Our Bar ATL
This reset in 2020 is an opportunity to restructure the restaurant industry to make it more diverse, more people-centric, and more connected to the communities they reside in and serve. As the aftereffects of this pandemic slowly recede, I hope to see the feeling of gratitude and the act of giving back become not only more recognized, but also intentionally nurtured and elevated as an inseparable virtue of doing business as usual.
Federico Castellucci — President and CEO of Castellucci Hospitality Group (Cooks and Soldiers, the Iberian Pig, Double Zero, Sugo)
That those who make the industry run — servers, cooks, dishwashers, bartenders etc. — are able to survive financially, and that on the other side of the table there is understanding from our guests for the storm we’ve endured.
Beth McKibben — editor of Eater Atlanta
I hope restaurant owners recognize that dining rooms, bars, and kitchens don’t run without people who feel taken care of and valued for their services. I heard from a lot of restaurant employees this year who felt unsupported, undervalued, and unappreciated for the work they were doing, especially given the extraordinary and dangerous conditions they were often working in during the health crisis. Beyond paying a living wage and providing basic healthcare, I hope more owners and restaurant management tap into the talent they’ve already got at their establishments. Provide opportunities or avenues for emerging talent. Just look at Atlanta’s thriving restaurant pop-up scene. The industry is filled with creative people who come with a variety of educational degrees and backgrounds, life experiences, and a wealth of ideas.
Sarah Kim sums it up best for me, “This reset in 2020 is an opportunity to restructure the restaurant industry to make it more diverse, more people-centric, and more connected to the communities they reside in and serve.”