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April 11, 2022

Where the food scene stands post-pandemic

For better and worse, here’s where things stand

It’s been a rough two-plus years in the hospitality industry, and restaurants aren’t in the clear just yet. And in those years, it seems like everything has changed. Here’s where we are now, and where things look to be headed.

Challenges remain. Federal aid has mostly run out, and many restaurants are still paying back rent. Food costs are rising — in some cases, increases in pre-pandemic prices is as high as 50 percent — but customers don’t necessarily understand the need to pay more. While front-of-house employees have mostly returned, back-of-house positions remain open as many decided the tough work and low pay weren’t worth going back to. And still, restaurants are still grappling with whether to close due to Covid cases among staff members.

Yet the pandemic has brought some much-needed change. Business models are adjusting to create a better living wage and situation for employees. This is both financial, with better wages and benefits, as well as on a personal level. Counter- and Leah & Louise have added service charges to increase and stabilize pay. Restaurant owners also realize they need their businesses to become more enjoyable places to work. Gone are the days of yelling chefs. Interestingly, the pandemic has also lead to earlier dining — as folks look to avoid crowds, more people are dining during traditionally quiet hours.

Through it all, the local food chain has remained strong. While the cost of mass produced food has increase drastically, local food prices haven’t changed much at all. The gap is closing between the cost of eating clean and eating industrially. The shortages at supermarkets sent more consumers to the farmers’ markets, and many seem to be staying there.

Lastly, people are ready to start going out again, something we’re seeing firsthand with the excitement surrounding the Charlotte StrEATs Festival this weekend. There’s an energy surrounding the culinary scene that has been picking up over the past weeks, and we can’t wait to see where that energy leads us.

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