Social distancing and sanitization will have a lasting effect on how and where we eat, so we discussed the future of food with Chef Dennis.
Chef-turned-food-blogger Dennis Littley (a.k.a. Chef Dennis) spoke with Blacklane in an Instagram Live interview Friday to talk about some of the big changes coming to food services and how you can find delicious meals wherever you are.
Social distancing, quarantines, and new sanitization standards have brought a whole new set of challenges for restaurants and eateries across the globe.
“A lot of restaurants that were in business are never going to reopen their doors, or if they do a lot of them are going to end up closing,” said Dennis.
Dennis doesn’t see serve-yourself setups like buffets surviving the outbreak either.
“I can’t see them surviving right now. Unless the virus weakens and we’re able to go back to more of a life like normal, but for now… I think more hotels and more resorts are going to get a lot more creative with room service,” said Dennis.
Whether that will manifest as mini room-service buffets or more of a manned carving station approach remains to be seen, especially when it comes to cruise ships.
Buffets already had their issues before the virus too, Dennis pointed out.
“We were already running into problems with all the food allergies and cross-contamination,” said Dennis.
“The unmanned buffet line, where you can just get in there is gone. For a while.”
Delivery services were already on track for major growth even before the virus forced lockdowns in many countries. Forbes had already forecasted the food delivery business to grow to a $200 billion industry by 2025, and that’s without the unexpected boost from lockdown.
Dennis himself admits that he hadn’t used delivery services very much prior, but has now discovered the benefits of ordering both ready-made meals and ingredients to cook himself.
“Depending on food deliveries is probably the way the future’s going to go. We’re not only finding that it’s safer for us than going into a restaurant, but we’re finding it’s easier,” said Dennis. “We’re learning a new way to live.”
Dennis also pointed out that food delivery services include more than just the transport apps that are partnered with your favorite restaurants, they can also include hotel room service and even concierge services.
How to eat like a local anywhere
Having spent years traveling the globe — and having joined the live session from a beachside resort in St. Simons Island, Georgia — Dennis is no stranger to discovering destinations through their food.
“I learn a lot about what’s local. The big push these days has been on local cuisine and local ingredients. That seems to be where food in general was headed prior to this pandemic, and I think it’s only going to become more focused on that,” said Dennis.
But how do you find great local spots? While his own blog is a great starting point, Dennis advises against relying on restaurant rating sites like Yelp or Google.
“You don’t who’s having a bad day, or who was given a free meal to write about it,” said Dennis.
While Dennis has quite the roster of professional foodies to rely on, you don’t need industry connections to get great personal recommendations from locals, said Dennis. Ask your hotel concierge or AirBnB host about their favorite places to eat.
“Ask your hotel if they have any concierge services, because I bet those are coming too. They can get you a meal from somewhere else and make you happy,” said Dennis.
“It’s going to be more service-oriented in a different way. That personal human contact is going to be gone for a while, but they’re going to have to up their game in different ways.”
Also, while it may be tempting to aim close to your accommodations, you could miss out if you stay too close to home.
“Generally, if you’re staying in a tourist area, don’t eat around there. Drive out of the tourist area and into where the locals live and you’ll usually find more authentic, less expensive cuisine,” said Dennis.
“You’ll find hidden gems. You can’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone.”
As exciting as it can be to get back out into the world, Dennis’ final words of advice were to not rush into any public situations until you’re comfortable.
“The good is that travel is coming back, so just be patient, be cautious, and use common sense.”