After a year of being cooped up, what will diners expect when eating out becomes the norm again?

During the Before Times, a restaurant’s ambiance, presentation, and service were often as important as delicious food. But Covid-19 has transformed expectations of what a meal should be. Writing in Eater, Sara Deseran wonders if we’ll ever return to our pre-pandemic habits, asking, “[When] the novelty of eating out wears off, will the process of dining out—getting dressed, walking, driving, parking, waiting, asking for the check—be regarded as a return to hunting and gathering?” The prevalent role of third-party delivery apps during Covid further complicates things: Deseran refers to restaurants’ relationships with them as “codependent,” but that uncomfortable partnership seems unavoidable for now. What will ultimately save the dining experience? Though it may be the communal atmosphere, it may be also something as simple as guaranteeing a sizzling hot plate of crispy food straight from the nearby kitchen.