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Our Biggest Hopes for the Restaurant Industry in 2023

2022 saw continued effects from the pandemic, a flurry of break-ins, and the threat of recession. Here’s hoping 2023 will be an improvement.

A smiling, diverse kitchen team stands in front of the kitchen, wearing blue aprons.
The team at Kann.
Dina Ávila/Eater

Each December, Eater Portland ends the year by reflecting on the last twelve months of dining in a series we call Year in Eater. We reach out to Portland food writers and influencers for their perspectives on major trends, impressive newcomers, and standout meals, and share their responses in a single package.

Responses are edited and condensed for clarity.

“I really hope we can keep more restaurants afloat in 2023. I hope we continue to see workers vouch for their rights. I hope we can see restaurant owners work with their teams to create businesses that feel sustainable — environmentally, culturally, financially. I think all of that foundational work needs to be in place to allow the industry to thrive.”
-Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

“My hope for the restaurant industry is that it continues to grow toward a more equitable, fair model. Better pay, better equity, better benefits for workers, and more understanding from customers.”
-Zoe Baillargeon, Eater Portland contributor

“I hope places are able to stay in business. These aren’t just restaurants we love to eat at, they’re people’s livelihoods. The flood of closures is never-ending and it’s equally tough to see restaurants that have been part of the city’s fabric for years shutter and fledgling restaurants that have so much promise and would make it in ‘normal times’ but just didn’t stand a chance in this ‘post-pandemic’ world we’re still navigating.”
-Janey Wong, Eater Portland reporter

“That Portland can accelerate building the density needed to house our growing population, while also maintaining space in every neighborhood for the food cart scene that is the engine of so much of what makes our city punch above its culinary weight.”
-Nathan Williams, Eater Portland contributor

“I hope more people come together at the dining table and show up for our restaurants. We’re still bouncing back from COVID shutdowns and bracing ourselves through this economic downturn. Our restaurants rely on local business because although we get a lot of tourists here for various things, we have long wet winters and inflation is only getting worse. Plus, good ideas, conflict resolution, and connections come from sharing meals! My hope is that Portland diners continue to shift views toward finding value in quality instead of leading with a suspicion that everything is arbitrarily overpriced. Restaurant margins are super slim and restaurant workers are fellow humans, trying to make a living like we all are. Understanding where our food comes from and the work it takes to get it on our plates is imperative as is treating those who do that work with respect and care.”
-Nori de Vega (@nomnom_nori), influencer

“My biggest hope is that the restaurant world continues its work surrounding culture, inclusion, and equity. Beyond where we spend our dollars, there needs to be ongoing progress in how we talk about food from other cultures and the people behind those foods. Everyone, from chefs to food writers to the public, should be a part of the conversation.”
-Waz Wu, Eater Portland contributor

“I think this winter is going to be a make-or-break period for hundreds of places that, through PPP funding and force of will, limped into 2022. All their resources are depleted and people sound exhausted. My hope is that restaurants keep coming up with models that work for both workers and business owners, and that heated, covered patios stick around through the end of the current Flu-RSV-Covid winter, because a lot of people I dine out with are still hesitant to eat inside.”
-Jonathan Kauffman, Portland-based food writer and author of A Place Is a Gift newsletter

“I hope to open Instagram and see fewer restaurants with smashed out windows, vandalized outdoor seating, and stolen property next year. (I realize it’s not as simple as all that.)”
-Krista Garcia, Eater Portland contributor

“It feels like every day we are seeing restaurants and small businesses under assault with break-ins, robberies and worse. There’s a brain drain happening, with chefs leaving the city for safer pastures elsewhere and taking their creativity with them. We sincerely hope for city leaders to step up efforts to fund and protect small restaurants. Another hope of ours that should go without saying is for customers to continue being kind, patient and generous to service workers this holiday season and going into 2023. Don’t leave a one-star review because they closed early, probably due to staffing issues. Your rating will just hurt their chances of steady operating hours even more.”
-Vicki and Vanessa Ng (@foodbellypdx), influencers

“Between the constant news of theft and rising food costs, my hope in 2023 is for the industry to suffer less stochastic and systemic strife so they can continue to do what they do best, that is be creative, be generous, and foster communities here in Portland.”
-Ehow Chen (@ehow.eats), influencer

“Either chicken strips as good as the Roxy’s were or we outlaw all fried chicken and fried chicken-adjacent dishes in Portland in 2023. No, really, my biggest hope for the restaurant industry in 2023 is that people like me and all of my friends, who all work in it, could afford to eat in the restaurants we work at without a discount. I think that’s a pretty low bar, yet I can’t afford to go out to dinner… anywhere… unless I’m covering it. So let’s maybe start paying people well. If you run a restaurant, and you look at a dish on a menu, and you’re like ‘this price is equivalent to an entire day of one of my worker’s labor,’ maybe try to feel something in your mind and heart. Cool!”
-Thom Hilton, Eater Portland contributor

“I worry about a potential recession. My hope is the restaurant industry will be resilient enough to survive and maybe even grow stronger during that time.”
-Gary Okazaki (@garythefoodie), renowned globe-trotting eater

“First, I hope the costs of running a business settle down. Butter, flour, turkey and just about everything else have steeply increased due supply chain issues, the war in the Ukraine, and avian flu among other things. It was hard enough to run a business without these pressures. Second, I hope that workers come back to the restaurant industry after leaving during shutdowns and confrontations about mask wearing. The pandemic was an ugly and challenging time for servers, hosts, bartenders, baristas etc. Hopefully, customers will recognize their importance so they are treated with respect and paid appropriately. In addition, I hope that the Credit Card Competition Act is enacted. This legislation would allow more choice in payment processors for credit card transactions. According to a Nilson Report, Visa and Mastercard handled roughly 77 percent of transactions in the United States last year. The fees this duopoly collects are steep especially for cards that offer awards. Merchants, not credit card companies, are paying for those rewards. An increase in competition could lead to lower fees for restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and other merchants who have become more and more reliant on credit card transactions during the pandemic.”
-Rachel Pinsky, Eater Portland contributor