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Austin Food Experts Discuss Their Biggest Restaurant Hopes for 2022

From good wages and benefits for workers to taco tasting menus

A wooden board full of open tacos with fillings.
Imagine a taco tasting menu?
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 2021, 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 that 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. The final question, number nine:

What is your biggest hope for the restaurant industry in 2022?

Lenny Dewi, @eats_n_noods and Eater contributing writer
My hope is that we, the consumers, continue to be understanding that the impact of COVID on the restaurant industry is still ongoing. With the addition of shrinking labor and short supply chains, restaurants are working hard to bring us food that we love and enjoy.

We have also seen the restaurant industry and the community working together to help those in need during difficult times and my biggest hope is that they will continue to support each other.

Paula Forbes, cookbook writer and critic, and former editor of Eater Austin
Truly I hope everyone gets their acts together concerning employment. I’ve done all of it: I’ve cooked, I’ve catered, I’ve waited tables, I’ve done counter service. These are skilled, difficult positions, and the industry needs to compensate those who fill them accordingly. And diners need to be prepared for their checks to rise in tandem with wages and benefits.

I also wouldn’t complain if there was an Indian restaurant boom. And an increase in mid-range neighborhood spots opening (I know the math is hard on this one, but a girl can dream).

Jane Ko, blogger, A Taste of Koko
It’s been a challenging and tough year for the hospitality industry — both restaurant owners and the service industry. My hope is that we can create a stronger community.

Raphael Brion, Texas editor, The Infatuation, and former editor of Eater
There’s so much great food coming out of food trucks and pop-ups these days — it feels like the early 2000s all over again — and I hope that, in 2022, we’ll see a lot of them go brick-and-mortar.

Also, one thing I really want to see: taco tasting menus! Comedor had one during their happy hour for a little while, and it was the best. I want to pay a bunch of money and have a restaurant or food truck just keep bringing me different delicious tacos in a composed, controlled way, one after another. With drink pairings. Let’s make 2022 the year of the taco tasting menu!

Nicolai McCrary, Austin staff writer, The Infatuation, and photographer for Eater Austin
I hope we continue to see wages increase and to continue focusing on wellness and mental health across those in the industry. It’s a high-stress job that deserves a lot more credit than has typically been received, though we’re fortunately starting to see some shifts in the right direction.

Pat Sharpe, executive editor and food writer for Texas Monthly
I just hope and pray the omicron variant of the coronavirus won’t set the industry back another six months.

Erin Russell, associate editor of Eater Austin
I hope they won’t be forced into doing things out of the goodness of their hearts that are really the government’s job.

Nadia Chaudhury, editor of Eater Austin
I really really really hope that restaurant owners/head chefs/people of power in their restaurant teams/etc. start to or continue to treat their staffers well, from respecting them to paying them properly.

I really hope that the people creating food for the public really think about what they’re making and why and what it means for themselves and for the greater world.

Along those same lines, I really really really hope that chefs and people understand how to respect others and other cultures.