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Demand for dining surging – can restaurants keep up?

You thought the old normal was right around a Pfizer-fueled corner? Think again. Seemingly in the blink of an eye demand for dine-in has surged, but not without issues. According to Matt Crandall, exec chef at the downtown Bourbon Group (White Horse, Whiskey Street, Bourbon House), “we went from 0-60 almost overnight, I don’t think anyone expected it. We’re actually busier now on the food side of the business than before the pandemic hit”.

Despite that pent up appetite, restaurants around the country are struggling to keep up. One item I missed in my crystal ball gazing last year, was the complete reworking of labor markets. Restaurant Business Online reports that while millions of hospitality positions evaporated in 2020, the displaced workers simply aren’t returning; potentially creating a hiring crunch worse than that of 2019. The reasons are complex, and if you’re part of our Facebook food group, service staff and restaurateurs alike debated the issue recently.

In truth the issue has been barreling down the rails toward the local restaurant community for years. Outside of the big cities, service can be a transient industry, not often viewed as a permanent career option; couple that with a booming Utah economy (number one, number one!), with the likes of eBay, Discover and Amazon tempting an overall workforce with wages and benefits – and you can see the pressure the industry faces from a variety of angles. Change has only just begun I suspect.

This story by SL Mag talks with a number of local businesses about the problem. Laziz Kitchen’s Moudi Sbeity talks about the change that’s likely coming, “Locally-owned restaurants have had a sort of identity crisis. We need to rediscover our place in the community, and, in order to do that, we need support—not just with dollars but with hours. Regaining that support might mean the industry significantly transforms the way it operates.”

So if you’re headed out this weekend – be smart, be kind, be patient. Most importantly, make reservations and tip well, really well…

Utah open for business

There are far too many hour changes, openings and updates to list in detail. Tune into your favorite restaurant’s social media channels and most will have something of note right now. Here are some notable ones that came my way though:

The Gateway – With the Spring weather mostly playing its part right now, patios are unfurling their sun shades. Downtown’s Gateway is awash with outdoor space and recently reported the opening of all their patio areas. Options include:

  • The Gateway’s common areas – Restaurant Row communal area and the Olympic Plaza. Enjoy any restaurants to-go meals al fresco
  • Seabird Bar & Vinyl Room – now with two patios. Located in front of and behind the bar with additional seating and fire pits
  • HallPass Food Hall (pictured above) – patio and outdoor bar
  • Midici’s Neapolitan Pizza – outdoor patio with fire pit
  • The Store Fine Foods
  • ‘Bout Time Pub & Grub
  • Costa Vida

Beltex Meats – Performing one of the best C19 pivot acts around last year – this SLC butcher shop are now making plans to get back to a newish normal. In store shopping is now back, Thursday through Sunday, 10-6 p.m. Fans of Beltex’s (line inducing) Cuban sandwich will be buoyed to also know there will now be a special sandwich each day with Sundays being locked in as the ‘Salt City pork roll egg n cheese’.  Deliveries will also continue through the businesses website.

Piper Down Pub – State Street’s Irish-themed bar and restaurant confirmed the opening of their rooftop patio this week.

Cliff Dining Pub – Also with a patio in full swing now, also with a new rotisserie chicken dish. Speaking of new menus items.

Menu watch

Provisions – The Millcreek chef-driven restaurant have an all new prix fixe menu offering three courses for $25, dine in only. Options include items such as crispy duck rolls, veggie khao soi and braised short rib. Enjoy it all on the newly opened patio too.

Hearth And Hill – This weekend sees their popular Hip Hop Brunch return to the menu. Sunday April 11th, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. featuring DJ and themed-menu.

One Dude’s Pizza – Now bringing their unique take on pizza – have you ever tried a waffle crust – to sandwiches, 11-2. Waffled-sandwiches include the blue reuben (pictured) that comes with made to order waffle bread, corned beef, Swiss, sauerkraut and bleu cheese sauce.  

Warren’s Craft Burger – Often overlooked but one of the best burgers in Utah in my book. Right now you can snag a number of daily deals at this Ogden spot:

  • Meal Mondays – select sandwiches fries and drinks, $8
  • Take out Tuesdays – family dinners to go, $20
  • Happy halfway day – wings half priced, $3 sliders
  • Three for Thursdays – three course meal for two, $25

Arlo – Another burger but hey, this ain’t your regular burger. I’ll let the restaurants own words on this one do the talking, “We’ve been holding back on adding a burger to the menu because, for a small restaurant who does its own butchery, acquiring a cow is no small task. However, we were finally able to purchase one a few weeks ago and some tremendous dishes have resulted from it. Local beef with jalapeño cheddar sauce, meyer lemon aioli, whole grain mustard, caramelized onions, pepper relish, house made bun, and pastrami. Also, potato wedges.”

CommunalBrunch to go kit for DIY breakfast costs $25 and includes:

  • 6 strips of Clifford farm bacon
  • 8 farm fresh eggs (Clifford farm)
  • Communal buttermilk pancake mix
  • Wet mix for pancakes
  • Butter
  • Communal’s buttermilk syrup
  • Orange juice or local cold brew coffee

In other news

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