• Chris Posner, CEC

The Roaring 20’s

The roaring 20’s of the 21st century may prove to be a redo of the 20’s of 100 years ago. The years prior to the 1920’s included the long and bloody World War I, as well as the deadly Spanish Flu of 1918. The end of both of these events saw the ushering in a decade of decadence, exuberance, and unprecedented economic growth. Similarly, the years leading up to the 2020’s have been filled with political unrest and a worldwide pandemic of which we are (hopefully) witnessing the end.

We’ve spent the last year refiguring and redefining our lives- working from home; eating almost all meals at home; watching all the latest movies at home; even reconfiguring where we call home, with many people vacating cities and urban areas and resettling in the suburbs. All these changes in how we live, called “the new normal” by many, came on fast and furious, just as the catalyst for all this change in the form of Covid-19 came on and caught all of us off guard. We adapted to this ‘new normal’, but for how long will we continue to accept it? Will we continue working from home, eating at home, entertaining at home? I believe as we overcome the pandemic we may continue to work from home, but I as restaurants and theatres reopen, we will see a grand return as people look to pick up where they left off…although I don’t think it will be quite the same.

So, what may be different. For one we will see fewer restaurants. The restaurant industry has already suffered massive losses due to Covid-19, with over 110,000 eating and drinking establishments in the U.S. closed, 2.5 million jobs erased, and a $240 billion dollar drop in foodservice sales. Fewer restaurants open, by the simple idea of supply and demand, may also lead to slightly higher menu pricing. Patrons may also expect higher quality, although I believe people may be so happy and giddy to eat outside of the home they may not even notice 😊.

The restaurants that will be open for the beginning of ‘the great return’ will also be different inside. For example, menu offerings may be limited to start. This may be due to several reasons, one being restaurants will need to restaff, and retrain employees. Limited menus will also give restaurant operators an opportunity to control cash flow with a smaller amount of dollars tied up in inventory. Paper menus will most likely be obsolete, with diners accessing options via QR codes. This option serves two purposes- one being paper menus tend to be touched by many people, and while we may be past our pandemic fears, people will still be cautious; Also, it is an opportunity for restaurants to save money on printing costs, when patrons could simply snap the QR code and order simultaneously. We may also see linen napkins and tablecloths replaced by disposable options for cleanliness.

Will we see humans replaced by technology? In an effort to limit person to person contact, many foodservice establishments, especially fast food and fast casual, have added self-serve kiosks for people to order from. While self-serve kiosks were already being implemented, the pandemic helped to speed up the adoption. This, pared with the possibility of a minimum wage hike, has led some in the industry to believe this may also lead to obsolescence of a physical waiter/waitress altogether. I disagree with this prediction. A large reason people eat out is for the total experience. Whether that be the food, the ambiance, or the social interaction, a waiter/server plays a big part in that experience.

Much like the roaring 1920’s, alcohol consumption may see a spike. Pre-pandemic food and beverage establishments started to see a decline in alcohol sales. Cocktails were being replaced by healthier ‘mocktails’, made with fresh squeezed juices and adaptogens such as ginger, maca, and ashwagandha. However, since the beginning of the pandemic, alcohol purchases have seen an almost 30% rise, and I believe as restaurants start to open to full capacity and we return to travel and vacations we will continue to see this upward trend.

2020 was certainly a year most people would like to forget. A year decimated by a worldwide pandemic, as well as nationwide civil unrest. A year no one could predict. We, as people, will come out of the pandemic era stronger, wiser, and hungrier! Like people 100 years ago, I predict we will roar into the 20’s!