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A hope for less Instagrammable food in 2024.

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The Biggest Hopes for the Carolinas Restaurant Industry in 2024

Equity, employee safety, and ugly food

In keeping with Eater tradition, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. To kick it off in the Carolinas, Eater asked the group eight questions, ranging from the restaurants they frequented to the saddest surprises of the year. Responses are in no particular order, and readers are encouraged to leave answers in the comments.

Q. What is your biggest hope for the restaurant industry in 2024?

Kayleigh Ruller, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering Charlotte

I hope restaurants continue to hone in on and strengthen their personality, situated within a specific community. So much of Charlotte’s recent restaurant developments lean a bit corporate, and to really get Charlotte on a serious food map, the creative culinary leaders (who definitely do exist!) should strive to take branding risks, creating an authentic identity that people in town want to be a part of. As consumers, restaurants shape our identities, and leaning into that part of restaurant culture can inspire some really innovative and fun risk-taking.

Matthew Lardie, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering North Carolina

I just really hope folks can continue to hang in there. The industry continues to make adjustments to this new dining reality, and those that have managed to weather the storm so far are probably in the best position to build and grow for the future.

Timothy DePeugh, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering Charlotte

That the era of the food influencer ends, and that chefs making delicious ugly food that is utterly un-Instagrammable takes over — which leads to world peace.

Stephanie Burt, writer and host of The Southern Fork

That chefs continue to take creative risks and really think about what they want to showcase instead of what they “think” people will buy (even when they are in a market where that feels scary). Cooking from a true point of view is so exciting to me, and if you get people excited, that’s more important than just being satisfied.

Hanna Raskin, editor and publisher of The Food Section

The Union of Southern Service Workers has mounted several impressive campaigns, but I’d love to see their collective action yield tangible results, particularly in the realm of employee safety. Just as restaurant workers were forced to confront the pandemic early and often, they’re daily up against our nation’s gun obsession. I hope we don’t lose another innocent hospitality worker to a fatal shot in 2024, and I hope it will one day seem ludicrous that we had to spend our wishes on such basic human rights.

Stacey Sprenz, photographer and Eater Carolinas contributor

That the industry will continue to work to become a more sustainable and equitable industry.

Stephanie Burnette, Eater Carolinas contributor

The return of the $10 cocktail.

PTO for F&B workers.

Less tasting menus.

Erin Perkins, editor Eater Carolinas

I hope that we find a way to preserve (or grow) opportunities for smaller mom-and-pop restaurants to thrive in bigger cities. This probably starts with more affordable housing in those cities, so employees and owners can live within a reasonable distance of their workplace.

Kay West, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering Asheville

That the industry will continue to work to healthier work spaces, and there will be more diversity at top chef positions and in ownership.

Eric Ginsburg, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering North Carolina

That industry workers earn a living wage.

Mike Ledford, photographer and Eater Carolinas contributor

I hope food and overhead costs come down for restaurant owners and that they pass those savings down to employees as increased wages.

Catherine Currin, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering the Triangle

That we can breathe some more life into downtown Raleigh and keep all of our incredible restaurants and bars open and busy!

Melissa Howsam, editor-in-chief, Raleigh Magazine

After a few years of hospitality upheaval, there is a deeper “why,” and intentionality is at an all-time high. That and the continued — and long overdue — expansion of cuisines that explore and fuse cultural identities.

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