- Text D1A Team
- Design John Portis
It’s 9pm in the restaurant capital of the world—New York City—and you’ve just stepped into the restaurant you’ve been trying to make reservations at since, well, you can’t remember how long ago you set that notification on Resy. You’re excited to finally be there, try the menu and take in the whole experience. As your espresso martini—no; make that a Hugo Spritz—arrives at the table and you start to catch up with a friend, you’re somewhat distracted by chatter from neighboring tables. It sounds like everyone has an opinion that’s begging to be heard, and not just about how delicious their dish was. They won’t stop talking about all the ways the food and beverage industry has transformed in 2023 and what’s ahead—from robots making their salad, to a lack of seating in fast food chains, to nostalgia inspiring '90s brand revivals. It’s hard to concentrate on the experience with all these murmurings. Eventually, you just decide to give in and eavesdrop.
Press play to listen in on the overheard conversations about trends bubbling up in the food and beverage industry from ebullient diners below:
Dinner Reservations are the new Night Life
As it becomes increasingly challenging to secure a table at a popular restaurant, people are opting for late reservations instead of a night out at a club, as dining at the “in” restaurant has become a newfound symbol of luxury. The only problem? Actually landing one of these coveted reservations.
girl on phone
"I mean yeah, some people sit on Resy until 11:59pm to get a reservation, but it’s mostly about who you know. Like knowing the host or the sommelier is the new being friends with the promoter or bouncer.” Did you see her post last night? Like we get it, you went to Lucien. I see the picture frames in the background. Who is eating steak frites at 11pm? Everyone knows the new Lucien is the front outside table of Casino. By the way, we already talked about the Horses drama, right? What?! You’re telling me you haven’t heard? Where do I begin…"
I mean yeah, some people sit on Resy until 11:59pm to get a reservation, but it’s mostly about who you know. Like knowing the host or the sommelier is the new being friends with the promoter or bouncer.”- Overheard at (restaurant)
Food as Utility
As some fast food and fast casual restaurants begin the process of increasing throughput by beginning to automate their workforce with robots, customers lose out on human interaction for the sake of efficiency.
"So I ordered a salad from a chain today and the robot making my grain bowl totally skimped on the dressing. Aren’t robots supposed to be smarter than us? Like... do better…And my friend almost lost a finger at that Jetsons ass taco joint. It’s that giant two-story-tall taco spot that hands you your food in elevators. The door almost closed on her when she went to get her chalupa! Like, I thought these automated restaurants would be cool because sometimes I just can’t be bothered to talk to people but I’m kinda missing human workers now."
I thought these automated restaurants would be cool because sometimes I just can’t be bothered to talk to people but I’m kinda missing human workers now.- Overheard at (restaurant)
Death of a Place to Sit
Quick service restaurants are getting rid of seating to maximize delivery orders and increase throughput, which means customers are having to find new places to socialize and find community.
"I took a road trip last month and obviously I needed to hit up a few fast food spots on the way because it was a 12 hour trip. But I could not believe that some of the restaurants I stopped at didn’t even have a place to sit! I know we’re automating some things for efficiency—the digital ordering doesn’t bother me, I actually prefer it—but when you drive six hours you don’t feel like eating your chicken sandwich in the car…like come on. Also, I know I’m just mildly annoyed by this experience—how about people like my aunt who go to some of these spots regularly to have coffee and see her friends? Not every town has multiple coffee shops. It’s really taking away a place for people to socialize. Have you heard about the death of the ‘third space’…?"
Not every town has multiple coffee shops. It’s really taking away a place for people to socialize. Have you heard about the death of the ‘third space’…?- Overheard at (restaurant)
TikTok took over the Menu
Restaurant reviews have taken on a whole new format as slick, short-form video content. TikTok influencers are asking restaurants to “collab” with them—offering a post on their socials in exchange for a free meal. But these 35-second reviews have not only changed where a review lives, but how customers experience eating out and even what’s on the menu, not to mention which restaurants garner all the attention.
"I don't know, I’m kinda shameless now about having my flash go off at a restaurant. I used to be embarrassed but I've leaned in now. I’m paying for the food and I've seen first hand how a TikTok video of mine can change a restaurant's business for the better. It's quite incredible and feels amazing knowing you helped a small business make money. The reality is... a lot of restaurants are catching on to how food creators can help their business. They're benefitting by adding more elaborate dishes to the menu like melting cheese for a cheese pull or having the waiters do some kind of performance at the table. It makes for good content, and if you don't want to mind your business and ignore someone taking a picture or video before they eat, you might want to stay home."
The reality is... a lot of restaurants are catching on to how food creators can help their business.- Overheard at (restaurant)
Using nostalgia as a tool to evoke warm feelings from fans and resurrect an old favorite is not a new concept to boost product sales, but recently there’s been a rise in food brands leaning into this trend more.
"I just came back from my niece's birthday and you’ll never believe what they were serving… these spiked juice drinks! It was such a throwback! It was like a lot of juice drinks from back in the day, actually. But noticeably not — at least, noticeable for an adult."
I just came back from my niece's birthday and you’ll never believe what they were serving… these spiked juice drinks!- Overheard at (restaurant)
Solo dining has risen sharply in recent years and may be the key to landing an otherwise impossible dinner reservation at a top restaurant. What used to be seen as socially unacceptable in the past has become the hack to getting in and eating well.
"I’ve been dying to try that new spot all over my FYP called ‘Tatiana.’ And I heard the bartenders are really nice from my friend who went there last week. The thing is, I couldn’t even believe she got in! I figured she must have booked like a year in advance. But she didn’t even need a reservation: can you believe this? The way she got in was by going by herself and just sitting at the bar. Apparently it’s been her lowkey hack for a while now: show up alone and get away with a barely 15-minute wait at some of the top restaurants. Genius right?"
She didn’t even need a reservation: can you believe this? The way she got in was by going by herself and just sitting at the bar.- Overheard at (restaurant)