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Innovative Pivots and Ideas From This Year That LA Restaurants Could Adopt in 2021

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The industry changed forever in 2020. These are some ideas that should stick around for the future

A worker in a mask bags grocery items while inside of an otherwise closed sunny restaurant.
Grocery items in an LA restaurant
Osteria la Buca
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

2020 will be the year that upended the restaurant industry. It’s difficult to talk about the year in review when everything changed, when people and businesses suffered during the pandemic. In light of the challenging year for everyone in Los Angeles, we asked food writers and industry folks about innovative ideas or pivots restaurants made in 2020 that they hope can continue in 2021.

Mona Holmes, Eater LA Reporter

In a city where we average 284 days of sunshine, why did it take a pandemic to ease restrictions, applications, and fees surrounding outdoor dining? The mayor’s al fresco program gave a green light to this type of dining experience, and it should become permanent for Los Angeles. Witnessing so much outdoor seating throughout the city (when it was still allowed) was a refreshing sight that we must see more of on a permanent basis.

Another pivot was with the expanded use of liquor licenses. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control hadn’t changed rules in a very long time concerning alcohol consumption at restaurants and bars. Cocktail, wine, and beer takeout is a wonderful and new thing in 2020, even without a pandemic. This should become a permanent change.

Danielle Dorsey, LA editor, Thrillist

I think the most inspiring pivot I’ve seen is one towards community. In the absence of federal support, businesses and individuals have scrambled to support each other and fill those gaps in service. The success of these pivots is proof, to me, that not only are our businesses more agile than we previously thought, but that centering the well-being of the collective is also how we succeed in our individual endeavors.

Euno Lee, Eater LA writer

Majordomo’s per-seat minimum with a la carte entree pricing. I was running the numbers on a similar pricing model while trying to crunch a viable way to improve restaurant per-turn margins and — true to form — Christine and the folks at Majordomo reached a similar logical conclusion. That type of menu pricing needs to be a standard moving forward and luckily Chang and Co. are experts at taking risks (and taking it in the teeth) and making intelligent moves to ultimately benefit the lot of their workers.

Esther Tseng, freelance writer

Outdoor dining in streets with reduced traffic has been a pleasant experience that I hope continues.

Hillary Dixler Canavan, Eater restaurant editor

I really hope some of the restaurants that have added marketplaces continue to keep those going.

Jim Thurman, freelance writer

Increased interesting pickup/delivery/takeout options, especially those involving use of home kitchens.

Farley Elliott, Eater LA senior editor

Let’s take the radical transparency of 2020 (all the “here’s how much money we’re making, or not” posts and the “here are our COVID protocols, and what happens when they fail” stories) and keep it around, in one form or another. Bring diners in to the conversation, and make them a part of the good and the hard.

Oren Peleg, Eater LA contributor, freelance writer

Restaurants diversifying their offerings. Yes, they will continue to be a space for community and interaction, but they will also be neighborhood groceries, and retailers, and delivery kitchens, and, and....

Hadley Tomicki, L.A. Taco

I’m a big fan of DMing home cooks and entrepreneurs who are offering their eats on Instagram, meeting up with them and trying their food. Not only do you get the home cooking you don’t see in restaurants, but you get to visit different parts of our incredible city and meet someone new, with often excellent results. That’s how I got to know some really talented people behind businesses like Humaya Mariscos, Hemera’s Bench pies, Aguas Locas aguas frescas, and Walking Spanish’s creative pupusas.

Matthew Kang, Eater LA editor

I hope restaurants get craftier about prepared meals or restaurant-style meals at home. Most people have heating devices to complete meals at home, and having mostly-done meals serves weary home cooks and helps restaurants keep their best customers satisfied.