CAN RESTAURANTS BECOME DRIVERS OF OPPORTUNITY—NOT INEQUALITY?

To Prosper in a New Era, Eateries Will Have to Reckon With Issues Left to Simmer on the Back Burner

Thousands of restaurants have closed for good across America since WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic last March. Many others remain temporarily shuttered; the remainder limp by with sales a fraction of what they were. Even with the arrival of a new administration and new vaccines, millions of restaurant workers continue to be out of work today, as the pandemic rounds its second year.

But the current disruption in the restaurant industry, for all the pain and economic loss it’s caused, provides an opening to disrupt the established models, and reckon with both the decline of hospitality and the reality of restaurant inequality. To recover and thrive in the years ahead, this essential American business will need to bring its time-honored cultural traditions into greater alignment with the social movements that define our times.

To start with, consider the slew of new options to purchase commercially prepared food that have flooded the marketplace in the last year. These options include delivery platforms, meal subscriptions, and online storefronts with offsite “ghost kitchens.” Takeout and delivery sales have skyrocketed, as have lines at the local drive-thru. Clearly, those who can afford to eat out occasionally are still buying and consuming food that they do not make themselves.

A shadowy army of workers has sprung up to staff these operations. Many are precariously employed, armed with some combination of a vehicle, a mobile app, a mask, and hand sanitizer. By connecting people to food through wordless hand-offs or drop-offs of plastic-wrapped edibles, these people are doing the human labor that Silicon Valley would rather automate than improve. It’s paying work, but we should be alarmed by this trend, which represents the decline of hospitality . . . . full article at Zocola Public Square