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Dare to Dream: 53 Restaurant Ideas for 2023
White linen table cloths, Turbo Turns, and gourmet nachos, s'il vous plaît
Whether or not this decade will pan out to be the Roaring Twenties 2.0 is still up for debate. That said, if 2022 proved anything for hospitality it was that people are champing at the bit to cut loose. All manners of Martinis and Negronis were sipped. Whole fish finally became a trend here in America. We TikTok’d our pasta chips and Birria tacos. Restaurants were packed. Reservation systems slammed. It was, given our perpetually tempered expectations in this post (post-post?) pandemic world, a very good year for diners and operators alike.
And yet perhaps the most palpable and prophetic takeaway from 2022 is that people want change — the kids demand to put their stamp on this decade! There was the much touted and equally lampooned “vibe shift” supposedly ushered in by Zoomers. Fashion took cues from the indie sleaze aughts. The Dare dropped “Girls,” which both sounded derivative of DFA-era bloghouse and refreshingly new, as if each synth stab of its earworm beat pointed us toward a more messy and carefree future. But, what of restaurants?
Here now, if we throw reason out the window and dare to dream, our grab bag of ideas for 2023, some 53 of them. Should you be declaring your own New Year’s predictions — or resolutions for that matter — in the coming days and weeks, feel free to crib as needed.
Normalize single seating dinners
Because what’s more luxurious than knowing a table is yours for the entire evening?
Bring on the one-dish restaurants
Menus are so 2019.
No more house-made ketchup
We love you, chef, but we also love Heinz.
Make room for more Keith McNallys
Sometimes his Insta is full-on, but WYSIWYG and his staff always comes first.
More buy-backs, less free dessert
Guess what inspires loyalty? Being rewarded for your drinking with more drinking.
Know your guests’ kids’ names
The game is changing, and that means you gotta know the next generation of your customers.
Every menu should be omakase-able
Being along for the ride is the new Type A.
Embrace walk-in culture
We need more spontaneity.
Make cinnamon rolls great again
We can do better, we must do better.
Employee name tags at 4-star restaurants
And maybe some flair, too.
Make a Spotify playlist
We hear it’s a great restaurant discovery hack.
Elevate the nacho!
It seems like all manners of comfort food have been given the gourmet treatment, while the nacho — merely a blank canvas of tortilla chips ready to be topped by virtually any ingredients — has been left to wallow in sports bars. We say no more!
More tortoni, more tartufo
Less olive oil cake.
Let your guests be part of the research and development process
Offer loyal customers not-yet-on-the-menu dishes and incorporate their feedback.
No more QR codes
We want to see and hold menus again! Never underestimate the fun of a good old fashioned form factor.
Move tipping to the start of the meal
You get what you pay for? Could be interesting.
Bring back bananas foster
It’s like Mardi Gras in a skillet, what’s not to love?
New dress code idea: No Jackets Allowed
Nice blazer, boomer, but you’re killing the vibe in here.
Arrive when you want, but be willing to pay up for it
30-minute arrival windows for $50 a pop — better than the gratis 15-minute grace period?
Let regulars enter through the kitchen
Even the non-mobsters!
Someone open a Michelin-starred buffet restaurant…
Yeah, your food’s that good? Prove it.
Or just cancel Michelin stars altogether.
No, they don’t matter anymore.
…And restaurant week, too
It’s good for biz, but so are Groupons. We can do better.
Celebrity chefs do their own Happy Meals
Forget the Monopoly Man, let’s get David Chang’s take on chicken nuggets and fries.
Make fondue groovy again
Come on, it’s like Swiss Queso, and there’s a good chance your parents conceived you after having split one.
No more skimpy lobster rolls
If lobsters are indeed the cockroaches of the sea, then why are we portioning them like truffles? Chop, chop! Load ‘em up!
Retire the word ‘foodie’
Make food photography less precious, more messy
Life is messy, and so is good food. Enough with the phony Instagram aesthetic, already.
Put an ‘add caviar’ upsell on every dish
If these ‘20s are going to roar, caviar will play a role.
Early bird specials for parents with young kids
That 5 p.m. turn is easier than it looks.
Dim Sum carts for everything
Chinese food or otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with a rolling cart and servers slinging delicious fare.
Consider the pretzel bun
And don’t skimp on the salt.
Three words: Whisky Sour Renaissance
Move over Espresso Martini, the real alcoholic’s here to play.
Keep the white table cloth trend going
No, despite what the hirsute hipsters who believe they discovered Brooklyn will tell you, there’s nothing passé about crisp linens.
Offer a Turbo Turn high-speed option
Sometimes three courses in 45 minutes is exactly the right pace.
Edison bulbs be gone!
We get it, you’re ‘unique.’ But then stop complaining about your margins if you’re paying $12 for a light bulb that lasts a month.
Restaurant Captains must wear full military regalia
With brass buttons and epaulettes!
Turn more foods into dumplings
Why, yes, we will have another order of spicy rigatoni dumplings.
Up the bathroom mint game
Let’s put as much thought into our bathrooms as we do the dining room.
Bring back late-night dining
11 p.m. is the most underrated seating of all
Gentleman’s pour obligatory for wine by the glass
Like the buy back, the more you hook us up, the more we drink.
Whether or not smoking is back, the restaurant matchbook remains timeless.
Cookbooks! Merch! Take.👏 Our.👏 Money.👏
Restaurants are entertainment, and we want to support our favorite teams.
It’s time for the music-food festival with band-chef pairings
If James Murphy already owns a restaurant, can’t we get some live LCD Soundsystem to go with our pork buns?
Food, but make it a dating app
We’ve already put the business model together…
Universal gratis sparkling water
Because we want to feel European without paying for it.
Replace brunch with a TikTok’ers-Only seating
They’re good for business, but bad for lighting. Maybe we could batch process them?
Valet stroller parking
Ever been to the Upper West Side on a weekend?
Country clubs for folks under 40
Update the cuisine (but keep the shrimp cocktail) and replace golf and tennis with pickleball. Ka-ching 💵
Enact regulation making Lazy Susans mandatory on round tables
We’ve literally already invented this wheel, and it works great.
More high-low collabs
A chain of 50 cent slice joints
Brought to you by 50 Cent, of course.
Retire shoestring fries permanently
The grip is terrible on these unwieldily rascals.