We are finally moving out of survival mode and back into a thriving dining scene that makes Omaha a destination for foodies across the country. As we cautiously make our return, there are trends and behaviors that are clearly history, and others that are just finding their footing. This month, The Reader takes a look at what’s trending in 2022.

Alternative Schedules

The four-day work week has been gaining a lot of popularity throughout corporate America as many are finding new ways to balance their families, jobs, and multiple side hustles. Let’s keep the same supportive energy when restaurants shift to the same structure. While many smaller establishments have long prospered staying closed one day a week, larger restaurants and many chains are now embracing the idea of limiting service hours.

From worker uprisings and labor shortages to the broken supply chain making maintaining inventory a tall order, something has to break. In an attempt to keep that “something” from being their remaining workers or their produce budget, your favorite restaurants will look to more selective service hours in the new year. Cutting hours alone won’t be enough to manage the enormous shift change, and you will likely see more focused menus, and prices that continue to rise for the foreseeable future.

Collaborative Kitchens

We have seen the success of cooperative models like Dandelion and The Switch, which both rely heavily on an all-for-one attitude between collaborative chefs and kitchens. This does more than take the pressure off each individual establishment, it also creates a more diverse and enjoyable dining experience for the customer.

Expect the most creative of the culinary industry to continue to find ways to create a virtual stone- soup out of the current kitchen crisis, and perhaps find a permanent way to end the toxic isolation and overworked culture the culinary industry has been suffering under.

Shop Local, for Good

I will fully celebrate an end to the fetishization of incentivizing local dining. As costs rise on goods and groceries for even the cheapest of chains, diners will be faced with overpaying for overprocessed food, or paying a proper price for something sustainable and substantial. Deals and discounts, loyalty programs, and forcing mom-and-pops to compete with big-name chains is staying in 2021.

And what will these smaller spots do with your dollars? Use them to source their food even more locally. Indoor gardens and greenhouses will be popping up faster than anything inside them, and this hyper-local sourcing will allow those newly focused menus a chance to grow strong and healthy again.

We’ve seen this work beautifully in the past with The Market House, and more recently at Gather in Omaha , which coincidentally took over the bay Market House left behind. As the pressure to just stay open begins to lift (again, thanks to you choosing to support local), the minds behind the local movement to protect and invest in heritage foods and heirloom varieties will have the opportunity to get back to their very important work.

We will see foods on the brink of extinction become local-exotic, something you very nearly lost the opportunity to ever even taste. While endless breeds once existed, can you believe Red Delicious was the one that got a pass? Support for heritage foods will mean a much more delicious future.

Exploration Continuation

For the last several years, allergen-free, health-conscious, or vegan alternatives to the most commonly used grains, nuts, and milks had been at the forefront of culinary exploration. Now that we’re finally climbing back out of survival mode, the creativity can continue. New trends in fermentation are under way, while CBD infusion continues to find its way into everyday dining. Non-dairy potato milk is ready to make its way into your favorite recipes for a richer, more sustainable dairy alternative.

The Return of the Experience

When Dave Utterback had to swap Yoshitomo’s beautiful chef-side dining for to-go boxes, I was finally able to admit we were in possibly irreversible trouble. By the end of 2021, not only was Utterback back in business, he was putting on a show and donating portions of the proceeds to causes close to his heart. As tensions continue to ease, expect more establishments to embrace the celebration of food as Utterback always has. You’ll find more food as performance art, kitchen-side dining, and table-side preparations to bring you closer to the action.

Respect for Staff

The Customer is Always Right is wrong, and it’s long past time we all admit it. If the labor shortage showed us anything, it’s that it takes an awful lot of grit and patience to deal with the public, and restaurant staff have given notice that they’re not going to take it anymore. Many establishments will approach raising minimum pay for those dishing your favorite foods, and tip sharing is getting a hard look in the process. And the next time you think management is lax enough to let you abuse the wait staff, I promise you that another diner is pointing a phone at you ready to name and shame you on TikToK.

On second thought, go ahead and yell. The Go Fund Me accounts for the abused staff will more than make up for the paltry tip you were lording over them in the first place.

The underlying theme of this revolution is that 2022 will be the year the industry doesn’t just grind its way back into existence, but the year true sustainability is celebrated. The year we fully let go of predatory practices, like national delivery chains ripping off restaurants and dangerously toxic shifts for restaurant staff. The year we fully embrace what kept the industry alive. Thank you for your support in 2021. You let us continue to share your stories, and helped The Reader shine the light on what matters to you the most. We are so grateful that you continue to trust us to serve the community we love. Happy New Year!

Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to thereader.com and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

Leave a comment