Hope is again on the menu
After one year of the pandemic, things are beginning to look up for the restaurant industry
In 2009, The Bazaar, a Beverly Hills small plates restaurant concept by José Andrés, was deemed “the restaurant of the future.” I have previously written about how this restaurant is credited with bringing tapas to the US, but it was so much more than that. It was an experience.
Taking up the entire floor of a hotel, there were different tapas bars (some traditional, some allowing Andrés to push the boundaries of his culinary genius), a modern bar area, and, of course, a patiserie. Because what is dinner without dessert?
After its first year, The Bazaar was a tour de force: It was critically revered and booked. The glitterati, including Salma Hayek, Natalie Portman, and David Beckham, were regulars.
But, as COVID raged on, The Bazaar and its tasting menu counterpart couldn’t stay afloat. It closed for good last summer.
Unfortunately, this story is not unique. Since the beginning of the pandemic, about 1/6th of American eateries have closed, at least temporarily. No establishment was immune from COVID — not Michelin star winners, like the beloved sushi standout, Jewel Bako in Manhattan, family-owned treasures that withstood generations, like 20th Street Café in Denver, or even national chains.
The total number of restaurant closures worldwide, as well as the financial impact it has on the owners, chefs, and thousands of workers, is unfathomable. And, sadly, still ongoing.
There is another potential cost that, while it is nearly impossible to measure, has been deeply weighing on me: Will a generation of renowned chefs, palate-changing dishes and drinks, and new cuisines be lost forever? Will some of our favorite — and previously successful — restaurants and bars ever open again?
But, after a year of uncertainty and despair, I believe that hope is blooming this Spring.
In March, the US passed the American Rescue Plan Act — a massive stimulus bill that includes nearly $29 billion for restaurants, food trucks, bars, and street vendors. The grants that this bill affords will provide much needed support, and help breathe life back into the restaurant industry.
Last week, the US crossed the 100 million vaccinations mark. This too is a harbinger of good things to come for restaurant workers, entrepreneurs, associated suppliers, and diners.
And maybe all that we had feared to be lost is not actually gone for good. Last spring, Gotham Bar & Grill closed its doors after 36 years as a staple in the New York City food scene. But six months later, it was on its way to a full-blown resurrection. A beautiful example of the perseverance that still burns in eateries and bars across the globe.
Who knows, the next “restaurant of the future” could be following along shortly.
Danilo Diazgranados is an investor, collector, and lover of fine wines and a member of the prestigious Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, a fraternity of Burgundy wine enthusiasts.