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Which Restaurant Adjustments in 2020 Will Have the Most Staying Power?

From to-go cocktails to pantries, many Seattle spots had to shift on the fly this year, but some innovations could stick

A display case of produce and other pantry goods at The Whale Wins Cafe and Larder
In 2020, many restaurants like the Whale Wins Cafe and Larder made retail offerings more prominent.
The Whale Wins/Instagram

Eater usually ends December by surveying local food writers on various restaurant-related topics that sum up the previous 12 months. But 2020 wasn’t like any other year. Since the pandemic caused so much upheaval in the dining scene, it seemed appropriate to include health care professionals and a science writer on the panel this time around to get their perspectives on COVID-19 impacts.

Previous entries include the standout takeout meals of 2020. Here, the various experts weigh in on this question: Which restaurant adjustments during the pandemic would you like to see stick around long term?

Two that come to mind are “restaurants as pantry” and pop-ups during off hours. I’ve liked supporting restaurants to stock up on essentials in my kitchen for all the cooking we’re doing. I’d also like to see this current energy of pop-ups continue. I’m thinking of things like Baon inside Ben Paris or Cookie’s Country Chicken. — Frank Guanco, food and wine writer, Seattle Refined

Here’s to more year-round outdoor dining. The Patio in Columbia City is a shared outdoor space for the historic district restaurants and I hope it sticks around. I keep imagining its greatness when Beat Walk is able to reopen and our street dance parties return. Jill Lightner, food writer and editor

Higher-end restaurants with refined takeout/delivery programs (we’ve done special occasion meals from Canlis, Salare, and Mkt). — Andrew Wright MD, general surgeon

I like the idea of more restaurants offering meal kits, which would be a hybrid between eating in and cooking at home. I also have really liked that many restaurants have offered discounted bottles of wine (and beer/cider) with food, which has been a fun way to try different wines. I bought several bottles last time we got takeout at Crepe Café near JuneBaby. The increased pop-ups have also been welcome, and I hope continue. I also like all the curbside pickup (i.e., drive-up windows and dedicated parking spaces) — Ellen Kuwana, freelance science writer and editor, founder of WeGotThisSeattle, an initiative that feeds frontline workers by partnering with local restaurants

I recently tried Family Meals which cooks prepare on certain days. I preordered a meal for 2-3 servings on one day this month and Korean ribs to serve six when my son comes home. Packaging was minimal, same-day delivery, and inexpensive … I really like the concept of looking ahead and scheduling one meal at a time. It doesn’t lock me in long term and puts a plan in place … I have eliminated using Uber Eats or DoorDash because of the extra service fees thrown on. — Lori Higa, registered nurse

Online ordering, for sure, and I think people have made their desire for delivery clear. Hopefully we can create some delivery methods that don’t undercut the people actually making the food. Also: Karuna Long’s Cambodian menu at Oliver’s Twist! Please may that be here to stay. — Allecia Vermillion, editor-in-chief, Seattle Met