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Bay Area Food Insiders Share Their Hopes for 2021

All our wishes for the restaurant industry’s next year

San Francisco Bay Area Shelter in Place
Community groups in Oakland’s Chinatown offer hope in 2021, helping restaurants that are struggling during the pandemic to find new audiences.
Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

We asked a group of local writers, restaurant industry voices, and other assorted, and uniformly brilliant, friends of Eater SF to weigh in on this past year in food (and what a year it was). We’ll share their answers to this, the annual “Year in Eater” survey, over the course of several articles over the next two weeks. Today, they’re sharing their biggest hopes for the restaurant industry in 2021.

That angel investors will live up their moniker and swoop in to help restaurants that folded during the pandemic reopen once more. — San Francisco food writer Leilani Marie Labong

That it can reopen quickly and that it never has to suffer through something so awful again. — SF food writer Daisy Barringer

Just survival, man. I’m so worried about all of the little immigrant-run “mom-and-pop” type restaurants, in particular, so many of which are closing, week after week, without so much as a social media announcement. It’s those little guys that I really hope can weather the storm. — Eater SF food editor Luke Tsai

Restaurants and restaurant workers have responded to the pandemic with ingenuity and care. My biggest hope is that the federal government steps up to provide direct assistance to both groups, as it should have a long time ago. — East Bay-based novelist Robin Sloan, the author of (among others) Sourdough and The Strange Case of the New Golden Gate

That we build back better. Better to our staff is number one. We need to provide a living wage and pathways to leadership and management. I see a lot more small restaurant businesses transitioning to a worker owned model and I think this is a really great step forward. I hope more people in our community understand the true cost of food and are willing to pay it, in order to better serve our employees. — Chef, activist, and author Preeti Mistry

That the best of it will survive. — SF Chronicle senior features editor (food, travel and magazines) Serena Dai

We really need a stimulus and a bailout. There’s been many recent articles about how larger businesses have taken advantage of the PPP loan and how real community based mom and pop businesses have been left out to dry. This needs to be made right by our local, state, and federal governments. — San Francisco restauranteur Rica Sunga-Kwan, the owner of Portola District ice cream shop Churn Urban Creamery

That vaccination and the herd immunity that follows ( ) leads to a full-tilt roaring ‘20s style rush of business, allowing restaurants to survive AND thrive (and not just the ones backed by corporate money). That the super creative wave energy and innovation that comes with desperate times (including all of these amazing pop-ups we’re seeing) continues. And that people stop taking restaurants, and the people who make them run, for granted and recognize them for what they are — the actual life and soul of our cities. — San Francisco food writer Lauren Sloss

That the increased attention on systemic abuse, harassment, and racism within the industry will continue, and won’t be just a flash-in-the pan moment of performative Instagram wokeness from restaurant management that reverts to old, bad practices when the pandemic ends. Dovetailing with that, that workers who — jobless and perhaps feeling like they had nothing left to lose — finally felt free to speak up and call bad actors in the restaurant industry out will continue to do so, naming names and demanding that we all do better. — Eater SF editor Eve Batey

I hope that the restaurants in Oakland Chinatown can survive these times. Lots of these places aren’t on the traditional third-party delivery apps, so they might not be on the radar of the majority of people ordering takeout or delivery. In the meantime, they’re also not getting foot traffic in the area like they used to. Some hopeful and heartening news for Chinatown restaurants is that community groups like Good Good Eatz are helping restaurant owners connect with more people. They’re teaching them how to use social media, raising money for them, and in the case of Huangcheng Noodle House, which lost its restaurant in a recent fire, the group helped find it a new home at Swan’s Market. That was such a relief to hear! — Berkeleyside Nosh editor Sarah Han

That there IS hope. Not just hope for a renaissance, but hope for a better future — for the workers, for the sustainability of business models, for the next generation. — Resy editorial director (and Eater SF’s founding editor) Paolo Lucchesi

My biggest hope is to see more black restauranteurs and to see if the industry actually addresses or does something about its anti-Blackness issues. — Author, activist, chef, and Sankofa pop-up founder Selasie Dotse

That it survives in a form at least close to what we remember, that all the good front-of-house people haven’t left town — and that terrific newcomers from 2019 and early 2020, like Dear Inga and Reem’s Mission, can make it through until we get back to normalcy. — SFist editor Jay Barmann