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What We Hope for the Austin Restaurant Industry in 2021

“I just want to see restaurants thrive in 2021”

A parking lot with two-person tables with red-and-white checkered tablecloths and white chairs outside of a building covered in green ivy plants
Bufalina’s parking lot patio
David Brandon Hall/EATX
Erin Russell is associate editor of Eater Austin, a native Austinite, and a big fan of carbs.

As is the tradition as we near the end of 2020, Eater asked a trusted group of friends, industry types, and local bloggers for their takes on the past culinary year in Austin. Given the insanity of this year, Eater has adapted the standard survey into one the reflects the new realities of takeout, restaurant shutters, and a shaky industry. All answers will be revealed before the year ends — cut, pasted, (mostly) unedited, and in no particular order. Final question:

What is your biggest hope for the restaurant industry in 2021?

Pat Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
That everyone in the industry gets a little R&R at some point. They won’t take much time off course — they are the hardest working people in show business — but I hope their customers give them an enormous thank you for everything they do. Our lives would not be nearly as much fun without restaurants.

Nicolai McCrary, Austin staff writer, The Infatuation
We’ve already started to see changes in the ways that restaurants operate. Ramen Tatsu-ya used to be pretty strictly anti-takeout, but now eating their ramen at home in your sweatpants has become a way of life for so many. At the end of the day, I just want to see restaurants thrive in 2021, whether that means increasing safety measures to continue operating, or just optimizing things for takeout and delivery. Because we’re not out of this yet. We’ve seen some restaurants adapt in amazing ways — from reopening as sandwich shops to pivoting to at-home omakase dinners — and I hope these trends continue so that we can keep supporting all the restaurants we know and love.

Katie Friel, editor, CultureMap Austin
My hope is the restaurant industry, and everyone else for that matter, can switch out of survival mode and get back to moving forward and dreaming big.

Robert Jacob Lerma, photographer for Eater Austin and others
Relief. And a comeback story in the second half of 2021. Everyone loves a comeback story.

Lenny Dewi, @eats_n_noods and Eater contributing writer
My biggest hope is that they stay open and continue to contribute to the community and help each other out as everyone has been trying to stay afloat. I have seen businesses giving shoutouts to other businesses on social media ,and I hope that will continue.

Jane Ko, blogger, A Taste of Koko
The silver lining of this pandemic is seeing how quickly our community in Austin came together to support our local restaurants and help one another. We’re stronger together, so I hope we can do the same in 2021.

Erin Russell, associate editor of Eater Austin
I agree with everything said here: relief, hope, and a long, restful vacation. I don’t know how restaurant workers can manage the stress of the pandemic and still provide excellent hospitality each day, but they deserve admiration (and fair wages) for it.

Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
Seconding/thirding what everyone else has already said. I hope the industry gets a much-needed break from EVERYTHING.

I hope restaurant owners and chefs take to heart the mental well-beings and healths of their employees.

I hope restaurants/owners/chefs stay or become more mindful of all communities, from the way they approach their food to how they consider and treat others. Please don’t let the events of the summer go to waste. Issues of inequality and systemic racism, including in restaurants, are here forever.

I hope the government (federal to state to city) tries to better work with the industry so that both public health and local economies can be considered hand in hand safely (and no more abrupt/flip-flopping orders).