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Charleston Answers: What Do You Think the Future of Dining Looks Like?

Culinary minds across the Lowcountry chime in.

Erin Perkins is the editor of Eater Carolinas, covering the food and restaurant scene across North and South Carolina.

As part of Future Week, Eater Charleston asked local chefs and restaurant owners the question, "What do you think the future of dining looks like?" and received some really interesting answers. From positively affecting lives to more local dining, here's what they said.

"I think we're moving back to less is more, showcasing the product at its pure form. With the rise of social media and interest in food culture, diners are more educated and looking for more of an experience with the food where it's all about the dish and where service is more approachable." — Amalia Scatena, Cannon Green

"More neighborhood-based, affordable options that are driven by culture and ethnic traditions. The days of expensive, overpriced menus are not sustainable and will never be an option for a diverse audience. People are longing for more original, diverse options in cuisine and the future is bound to offer that." — Chris Stewart, Glass Onion

People are longing for more original, diverse options in cuisine ...

"I think you're going to see the proliferation of healthier fast/casual concepts like Sweet Green and Tender Green — slow food, done fast. The Westside of Charleston is about to be a very exciting place to dine around with Lee Lee’s already there and a few other great spots opening in the next few months." — Karalee Fallert, restaurateur

"I think the future of dining will continue to gravitate towards a more heartfelt and familial sense of hospitality and dining out. We treat our guests like family, respect and collaborate with local farmers and purveyors, support other independent small businesses. We'll be striving to give back to the community more, protecting our planet as best we can, and taking greater strides to take care of our staff. Hopefully creating warm and fuzzy feelings throughout the F&B industry while we do what we do best and positively affect the lives around us." — Chelsey Conrad, Butcher & Bee

We'll be striving to give back to the community more ...

"In the future, I believe it's the resourceful chefs and foragers that are here to stay. By preserving and highlighting abundant, seasonal ingredients, restaurants will continue to innovate outside of the same pattern i.e. less protein, vegetable and starch combinations. I believe we'll see more creative plates that showcase sustainable produce like hackberries, and chanterelle mushrooms."  Aaron Lemieux, Michael's on the Alley

"It’s a split decision. On one hand is the very real need to scale up to feed an ever increasing population with ever increasing scarcity of product due to environmental change, population shifts etc. On the other hand, we will see continued growth in the local, regional, seasonal, organic/biodynamic/GMO-free product marketplace, but these will increasingly be viewed as a value add that visiting guests pay a premium for in order to get a true taste of Lowcountry terroir." — Forrest Parker, Old Village Post House

"The future of dining is exquisite, elegant and attentiveness on the high end spectrum. Very quick, efficient and mechanical on the lower end of the spectrum." — Matthew Niessner, Halls Chophouse

"There certainly will be the need for our more casual dining ventures that appeal to the masses offering an economical way to eat out and socialize more often, but I think that the desire to be pampered and enriched will always have its niche for those looking for the 'total dining experience.'" — Robert Carter, Barony Tavern

... I'm glad the 'plastic food' movement is gone ...

"I truly feel cooking will revert back to the basics. For instance, Scandinavian cooking is really about gathering so many great ingredients from the growing season and preserving them for consumption year round. Also, preserving meats and cooking with open flames seem to really be coming back. Personally I'm glad the 'plastic food' movement is gone, and cooking in bags is overrated. Proper seasoning and making great food is becoming priority — especially a more healthy approach by treating vegetables like you would meat and fish." — Vinson Petrillo, Zero Cafe + Bar

"I believe there will be a continued shift to smaller plates with an emphasis on sharing as well as more casual style dining." — Shawn Kelly, High Cotton

"I anticipate a blurring of lines between the kitchen and the bar, with more restaurants offering elevated cocktail menus with unusual spirits, juices, and textures. At Pancito & Lefty, we're really focusing on making our food and drink menu cohesive, and plan on sharing techniques, products and flavors with the bar staff." — Robert Berry, Pancito & Lefty

"I see more farm to table, people being more concerned with healthier and more sustainable foods, and more family sit down dinners." — Jeremy Campbell, Bay Street Biergarten

"I think the future of dining will continue to be a social experience, less about where you're going and more about the company around you and the ingredients used at the restaurant. I also think we will continue to see healthy options, less frying, more naturally raised, less GMOs, locally-grown ingredients, etc. The more educated diners/consumer get via social media, TV, going out to eat the more chefs can continue to push their creativity. — Katie Lorenzen-Smith, Tavern & Table

As we go back to small, family-owned and operated institutions, the future of food looks more sustainable and healthier than ever.

"Good, healthy, sustainable food is returning to where it started. 'Chefs' are leaving the big-city food meccas and heading to more rural and less known towns and cities to share good food with people of all classes and walks of life. As we go back to small, family-owned and operated institutions, the future of food looks more sustainable and healthier than ever. I can see a future where each establishment does something completely different from the next but still collaborates in sourcing and supporting local farmers and producers." — Bryan Cates, Básico

"I think the future of dining, in general, is one where we finally see a closing of the gap between fine dining and casual fare. I'm hopeful that there will be a trend of more thought-provoking food popping up in places without the pomp and circumstance of the luxurious fine-dining setting. Already we're seeing burger joints using locally sourced produce and foraging has become much more common at your middle of the road dining establishment. I'm hoping that the days of the casual tasting menu are ahead of us. More adventurous diners allows for more adventurous cooking and that excites me." — Greg Garrison, Prohibition

There just aren't enough employees to fill positions, and I'm concerned ...

"It is growing more and more difficult to staff with quality employees devoted to the industry. There just aren't enough employees to fill positions, and I’m concerned that this may very well have a negative impact on the future of dining. When staff and employees find it difficult to take and give days off, room for error and lack of passion occurs. I hope the future of dining is filled with more people who do this because they love to come to work everyday and use whatever locals are growing and creating for their menus. We all just need to try and smile and cook from the heart and stay positive." — Emily Hahn, Warehouse and Parlor Deluxe

"I think there will be a continued focus on quality ingredients, healthy and fresh meals, and specialized dining. While food trucks brought the excitement of new flavours and concepts, they have become less popular. You will start to see a transition of food truck style offerings in new brick and mortar restaurants that offer quick, good meals in areas further away from the downtown and main spots. Charleston will continue to be a bit behind on the national trends, Charleston manages to add its own Southern touch that people seem to love. The dining scene is starting to expand outside of downtown and as Charleston grows you will see more focus on these new areas. They will start with little experimental places but as markets become more established a more mainstream restaurant base will come in. In addition with more and more meal delivery and food delivery services becoming popular, you will see a focus on providing convenience to people; from more corner coffee shops, to juice bars, to prepared foods shops. Charleston has a long established dining history, and it's only going to grow and get better as Charleston continues to flourish." Landen Ganstrom, Crave Kitchen & Cocktails

I do believe, here in Charleston, growth is a serious concern for all of us.

"I do believe that here in Charleston. growth is a serious concern for all of us. Finding good help is tough these days with all of the different venues opening. I can see more restaurants opening outside the city as other areas strive for better food options, ie Summerville, Johns Island. I also think the South's rise may fade a bit since it has saturated the press for so long. I do believe there is a need for more diversity in the choices out there but it is growing. Local will still be there, sustainable as well. Food prices are still high and I see no indication that will change so we all will be paying more for our food no matter where we get it from. Food trends are always cyclical and I can see reinventions of restaurants/menus of a bygone era becoming apparent. I have used that many times over. I like to introduce our customers to updated takes on classic fare. Many people have forgotten dishes of the past so to take them and make them something new is always fun!" — Marc Collins, Circa 1886

"I think/hope there will be a continued emphasis on balanced, healthy eating and a focus on making vegetables exciting, accessible, and delicious." — Brooks Reitz, Restaurateur

... fine dining is making a comeback.

"I think the future of dining will go back to white table cloths, fine dining is making a comeback." — Michael Perez, Indaco

"The future of dining I feel will be a return to simplicity, and a search for the barebones essentials of what it means to be hospitable. Hyper-manicured plates and stuffy service are already out of style, and in an oversaturated (at least locally) food climate, hopefully the cream will rise to the top." — Reid Henninger, Edmund's Oast