The hardship the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on the restaurant industry is immeasurable. On the other hand, it may have also changed diners' appreciation for small, family-owned establishments serving "honest" food.
In other words, the mom and pop deli shop that's been serving sandwiches and subs for 20-plus years is likely bustling with patrons, more so than the high-end restaurant offering some of the world's most innovative dishes. A common theme which emerged this year is that people are more grateful for human connection than arguably ever before. Right now, it's the restaurant that evokes nostalgia and memories of more peaceful, happier times that's reeling in consumers. (Related: 15 Classic American Desserts That Deserve a Comeback)
As Grub Street points out, restaurants' focus has shifted away from conceptualizing the "best" or "new" menu items. Instead, the main goal for many establishments—both large and small—is as simple as continuing to stay in operation. Additionally, some restaurants renowned for their distinctive cuisine—such as establishments with at least one Michelin star—are hurting the most right now, as their food isn't as equipped for delivery as it is for in-person dining. (Related: 5 Destination Restaurants You May Never Get to See)
The ceremonies which bestow the prestigious awards to these esteemed eateries have themselves come to a halt, and they will likely remain on pause for the foreseeable future. For example, Michelin, which surmounts all honors, announced in September that it had delayed the release of its 2021 guides in America indefinitely. Even the respected James Beard Foundation came forward and said it would refrain from announcing its annual restaurant awards for at least another year. And finally, The World's Best 50 now showcases the progress made in restaurant recovery versus ranking restaurants.
Currently, restaurants aren't looking for ways to garner more titles and awards. Instead, the industry is banding together and honing in on the thing of most importance: survival.
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