In keeping with the Eater tradition, we asked a group of restaurant critics, journalists, bloggers and friends of the website to weigh up the year of eating. Your answers to the annual Year in Eater survey will be published in multiple posts. Next, the restaurants talk about changes restaurants have made that they hope will persist in 2020.
What new pivots or innovative ideas have emerged from the events of 2020 that you hope will last through 2021?
Rob Kachelriess, Las Vegas Writer at Thrillist:: It was fascinating to see ghost kitchens like Gemma, Gemmas Square Pies, Pizza Anonymous, To Be Frank and Underground Burgers pop up this year. We may see more of this if the economy struggles to recover in 2021. I’m also happy to see BYOB finally gaining a foothold in Vegas. I know Sparrow + Wolf tried it and The Legends Oyster Bar promoted it instead of a bar license. I used to think BYOB was little more than a cork fee situation, but now I understand what it’s about. Fun to stop somewhere to choose a bottle of wine on the way to dinner and share it with friends. Not to mention it saves a lot of money.
Sonja Swanson, Food and culture author: I think we’re seeing an interesting convergence of home cooking and dining experiences (like meal sets, upscale pantry offerings, and cooking classes). It would be nice to have these post-pandemic options, although of course I can’t wait to sit down in a restaurant again for a nice long meal soon!
Louiie Victa, Eater Vegas photographer and co-host of Two hot cooks and a microphone:: Restaurant Pantry markets are exciting! As I said earlier, 2020 has forced a good majority of us to cook at home and it is great to have access to amazing and well-sourced ingredients besides what is easily available in grocery stores. In addition, food trucks are strongly represented both in the local scene and in pop-ups. I am happy that every creative concept is coming out in 2021.
Lorraine Moss, co-host of Two hot cooks and a microphone:: Ghost kitchens – they may be the only way for some of our small businesses to survive. It relieves the filling of a restaurant and promotes friendly cooperation.
Nina King, Las Vegas Magazine Editor in Chief: To be honest, to be able to get out of restaurants that traditionally haven’t offered this service.
Melinda Sheckells, editor OffTheStrip.com, OnTheStrip.com:: More demanding take-out efforts and delivery services. I think alfresco dining is really cool and I hope it gets more and more eclectic in the new year and I really love reservations because I don’t like to wait.
Diana Edelman, founder Vegan, baby:: I love the pop up pick ups. I was doing a couple with some chefs when the shutdown happened and I love how they have grown. I also love the chef’s cooking videos. I think both are great.
Scott Roeben, Vital Vegas:: I think the struggles in restaurants have raised awareness of the low profit margins of many restaurants. Restaurants had to get smart with procurement due to disruptions in the supply chain, and they had to be nimble as regulations were a moving target (with changes sometimes required within days). I’ve gotten used to using QR codes instead of traditional menus, and I suspect this will be the norm in the future. Aside from moving towards the more touchless elements of the food, it is also the most cost-effective for restaurants. You just need to avoid falling into the trap of using digital menus for price hikes. If they do, I’ll tweet about it, fair warning.
Melanie Lee, Esser Vegas: I love the digital menus! I really hope the restaurants keep doing it. I never felt very comfortable with the regular menus because they always felt a bit gross so the introduction of QR codes in tables was refreshing!
Bob Barnes, editor of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional and Las Vegas writers for Gayot:: Many Zoom virtual events / tastings came out of necessity but I still prefer in-person events when it is advisable to do it again.
Ken Miller, editor of Las Vegas Magazine:: As I mentioned earlier, masks and social distancing.
Philip Tzeng, food blogger at Las Vegas Fill:: There are tons of great local TikTok accounts made exclusively on this platform that create amazing and unique content. They have an enormous impact on the city with their rabid audiences, but they still fly under the radar of “marketing and PR professionals” and are only becoming more popular. Every restaurant should have a TikTok account and the idea that dance is ignorant and ridiculous only for teenagers.
Krista Diamond, Freelance Writer at Eater Vegas: I know we are all sick of zoom at this point, but I have to say I’ve been to some really great virtual restaurant events this year. I really enjoyed the anniversary celebration / tasting of CraftHaus. It was great fun getting the beer from the brewery and then hanging out at home and tasting it while hearing the stories behind it all. Of course, I hope one day we can get back to the actual events again soon, but it would be great if restaurants and bars still offered a virtual option for those who can’t be there in person.
Susan Stapleton, Editor of Eater Vegas: I think take-out and delivery will stay here for 2021 even as more and more people get vaccinated. Marc Marrone from Graffiti Bao really thinks about how his food is transported, whether customers order his dumplings, Bao rolls and lo mein or pizza at Gemma Gemma’s Square Pies. I like how Every Grain by Sheridan Su and Jenny Wong opened their To Be Frank Hot Dogs restaurant at night to run a ghost kitchen and Saint Honoré and Cafe Lola brought their Pizza Anonymous at night. I love what Gina Marinelli did in La Strega to only bring paid takeaway items for lunch. And Jolene Mannina’s move to take-away meals and videos with chefs cooking alongside clients at Secret Burger should persist in 2021.
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