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LA Dining Experts Discuss Their Biggest Hopes for the Restaurant Industry in 2021

From financial assistance to a more balanced approach to operations

A customer walks off with his takeout order from a restaurant in Alhambra, California on December 1, 2020.
A customer walks off with his takeout order from a restaurant in Alhambra, California on December 1, 2020.
Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
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 share their biggest hopes for the city’s restaurant industry in 2021.

Mona Holmes, Eater LA Reporter

That we take a long look at the things and structures that do not work throughout the industry. It’s time for a change from top to bottom.

As with any sea change, there’s an opportunity to make systemic and structural change. Now that the coronavirus is the norm (for now), we can shoot for the moon and build a coalition filled with ideas and actions to make sure that people from agricultural pickers to undocumented are no longer abused or exploited in the restaurant industry. Why not begin again? Begin anew?

I’m also hopeful that negative user-generated reviews are a thing of the past. If you’re an individual that still composes one of these during a pandemic, please take a hard look at why you think this is necessary.

Danielle Dorsey, LA editor, Thrillist

I hope that restaurant workers are deemed essential workers and some of the first in line to receive the vaccine!

Euno Lee, Eater LA writer

That it survives. That people are honest with themselves and realize yeah — if you don’t want to do dishes and you don’t want to cook, it’s worth it to pay extra to eat out.

Esther Tseng, freelance writer

That the RESTAURANTS Act is passed. I hope the industry can recover, but I do not see that happening unless this happens. Otherwise, we will be stuck with chain restaurants and a wholly uninteresting, uninnovative and riskless restaurant scene with no diversity. I hope the dining public, through all of this, is educated about tipping better, even if they’re not dining at the restaurant, and the value of restaurant labor—whether it’s the dishwasher or busboy, the sommelier or server.

Joshua Lurie, founder

Of course I can’t wait to see COVID-19 and restrictions fade and for restaurant dining to become semi-recognizable again. Beyond the obvious, I hope that more people — particularly legislators who have a say on budgets — see value in the work food workers and restaurants provide and show true support.

Hillary Dixler Canavan, Eater restaurant editor

I hope federal aid comes through, perhaps in some sort of lump sum backpay. Too many businesses and livelihoods have been lost because our government chose not to give a shit.

Jim Thurman, freelance writer

That, somehow, someway, the needed financial assistance comes through for them and their staffs.

Farley Elliott, Eater LA senior editor

A sense of calm. A moment for everyone who has fought like hell through 2020 to sit back, rest, and understand just how difficult it’s all been.

Oren Peleg, Eater LA contributor, freelance writer

That we begin to respect and protect the most vulnerable people within the system: the undocumented workers (from the farms to the kitchen) who are vital to the industry’s existence, as well as the servers and back-of-house staff who have little-to-no voice in matters of compensation, workplace protections, and other benefits.

Hadley Tomicki, L.A. Taco

Things probably won’t ever go back to the way they were. But I just want to see anyone who has worked hard for this industry and taken the big risk of opening a restaurant or bar to be able to get back on their feet. And for my fellow writers and food industry creatives to be able to do what they love and make a living.

Matthew Kang, Eater LA editor

A more balanced approach to success: looking at all stakeholders and making sure everyone can thrive financially and in terms of personal physical and emotional health. The world is only getting more difficult, but if we care for one another, it’s a win-win. Also, I hope the way we, as the food media, celebrate and talk about restaurants and food culture becomes less about some undefined standard of “excellence” and more about highlighting the hard work of individuals and communities across the city.

Finally, I hope people can see that owning a restaurant or food business is inspiring and worth pursuing. It’s been the most difficult year for the restaurant industry, but I know there is value in cooking food for others, and providing jobs/community/opportunity in neighborhoods. As a former business owner, I genuinely believe in the power of food to inspire and bring people together. Don’t lose hope! Frankly, I’d rather see one successful establishment owned by a community stakeholder and local family versus some big corporate-owned fast food place.