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Detroit Restaurant Writers Discuss Where They Think the Industry Should Go Next as It Rebuilds

Can local restaurants and bars build a better industry than the one before COVID-19?

A photo of masked protesters from SIWA3 marching through the streets of Ann Arbor. Some hold signs reading “Servers, Not Servants.”
Members of SIWA3 march through the streets of Ann Arbor during a workers’ safety strike on Saturday, October 24.
Elise Brehob [Courtesy photo]

As is tradition at Eater, we closed out 2020 by surveying local food writers and our own staff on various restaurant-related topics, and publishing their responses throughout the week. Next up: Where do you think the restaurant industry should go next as it rebuilds?


Serena Maria Daniels, Founder and Editor, Tostada Magazine:

I think we are already seeing restaurants pivoting to redesign their business models to address what’s happening so far in the pandemic. We’ve seen chefs raise money to be able to feed frontline workers and vulnerable communities and partner with urban farms to provide fresh produce to families. We’ve seen some public-private partnerships to this end, which is great. We’ve also seen chefs and restaurants come together to collaborate on these sorts of projects. I think as the industry continues to struggle, more restaurants are going to have to find ways to work together to fill in the needs gaps in their communities if they are going to survive.

Mark Kurlyandchik, Restaurant Critic, Detroit Free Press:

Taking better care of the people who make up the industry is the only viable path forward.

Melody Baetens, Restaurant Critic, The Detroit News:

I think now that people are comfortable getting delivery (beyond pizza) that it will become more standard, as will online ordering. There should probably a closer look at how to keep and properly compensate employees, because staffing was an issue for nearly every restaurant owner I talked to in 2020.

Zahir Janmohamed, Co-Founder, Racist Sandwich:

I know everyone is hurting for money, but I think restaurants should raise their prices. If we each have to eat out less so that workers are paid a better wage, I think it’s worth it.

Brenna Houck, Editor, Eater Detroit:

I think that in order for restaurants to sustain the industry is going to continue have to to innovate and find new ways to serve customers consistently through alternatives to in-person service like subscriptions, takeout, and delivery. I also think the service industry is going to need to take a serious look at how it treats workers and ensure that they’re taken care of in terms of compensation and their mental and physical health. Finding enough employees before the pandemic was hard. Now, it’s exponentially more difficult and complex. The industry also needs to come to terms with its treatment of Black and brown employees and women. I also foresee more restaurants looking at cooperative models as a way to create more ownership and diffusion of leadership.

Mickey Lyons, Freelance Writer, Eater:

Restaurant owners MUST start taking better care of their employees. One thing that became glaringly obvious as the pandemic wore on was that the restaurants and bars that were able to stay in business, in some form or another, did so because they listened to their staff and the whole team worked together to come up with a plan and a new business model to work through the pandemic — one that everyone was comfortable with, safety-wise. The creativity and expertise of your staff is your greatest asset as an owner. I saw a few restaurant owners trying to bully their staff into an uncomfortable working environment, and that’s not going to work long-term. You’ll just lose the good people. Once we’re back into normal operations, good restaurant and bar staff will be in very short supply, as so many have changed careers in the last nine months.

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