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D.C.'s Restaurant Industry Predicts the Future of Dining

What does the future of dining look like? Local experts weigh in.

Eater.com

It's Future Week over on Eater National, and D.C. wanted to get in on the action. Here, Eater asked the D.C. community to contribute their thoughts on the future of dining. Here's what they had to say.

Victor Albisu [Photo: Facebook]

Victor Albisu [Photo: Facebook]

Diversity...and the end of a bubble

Victor Albisu, chef and owner at Del Campo and Taco Bamba: "Two things come to mind: First, diversity. Diversity is feeding the evolution of our restaurant scene. The rise of authentic, fun, unpretentious fast-casual concepts will continue to dominate...As part of this movement, I think we will see many local chef-driven establishments seeking out more interesting locations. Second, the end of the bubble. I believe we are currently living in a restaurant bubble. The many diverse cultural cuisines currently represented in the dining scene will increase while, over-priced "out of towner" dining establishments will continue to pay ridiculous rents to dilute the amount of diners in our restaurants. Eventually the bubble has to burst, and I can see that leaving many restaurants either closed or evolving in a direction contrary to their original vision.

Keep it simple

Ashok Bajaj, chef, restaurateur and founder of Knightsbridge Restaurant Group: "I think people want more honest, pure, clean food. Diners want to know where the food was sourced from, and how it was raised. I just returned from London and Venice, and I saw the same thing there. I also think we need to inspire the younger generation to become more engaged in the hospitality industry because there is a big shortage of culinary talent on every level."

Narrowing the focus

Jeff Blackchef, restaurateur and founder of Black Restaurant Group: "What I see, especially as urban areas continue to grow, is more restaurant specialization... This will carry over even more ... where you'll see concepts as focused as only selling grilled cheese sandwiches or falafel or cider. It used to be that, 10 to 15 years ago, a restaurant couldn't survive if it were only open for dinner or lunch. That's not the case anymore, and I see that trend continuing to expand, especially as people's diets become more specific and cities become more densely populated."

David Guas [Photo: Scott Suchman]

David Guas [Photo: Scott Suchman]

Embracing fine dining

David Guas, chef and owner of Bayou Bakery and TV host: "Dining is moving towards being more interactive and transparent. With the growing number of intelligent diners, we as an industry have to be more honest. We have that obligation to the diner to present the truth in what they say they are purchasing and serving.

And I see more children in restaurants you would not have seen five years ago, who are knowledgeable about food and willing to explore. We need to nurture the next generation in order to secure our future diners. I am a father of two, ages 13 and 10, and they do not want to settle for mediocre...

And from a stability stand point we need embrace fine dining again to support the restaurant industry. I am crossing my fingers that fine dining is on a comeback... I feel many others are willing to do their part to support that small percentage we have left. It is all a part of the food chain. Casual is a large portion of it now, as I stake my livelihood in it, but there needs to be balance."

A sense of community

Marjorie Meek-Bradley, chef at Ripple and Roofers Union: "I think that the future of food will be more focused on communal dining and atmosphere. People use food as a universal language. It is such a good way to bring people together. At Ripple, I have put on more large plates that are meant to share for the table and people really seem to dig it."

Mike Isabella [Photo: R. Lopez]

Mike Isabella [Photo: R. Lopez]

More casual, more vegetables

Mike Isabella, chef, restaurateur and founder of Mike Isabella Concepts: "If you look at trends right now, the quickest growing part of the industry is fast-casual. And there are a lot of real chefs driving those concepts, it’s not just big companies. And the chefs are using the same local, organic ingredients and care with the cooking that they are in their full-service, sit-down restaurants.

You are also seeing more and more attention being paid to the vegetables being served...I can only see this as a positive, especially as the trend moves beyond fast casual dining, we are going to see more and more local, organic products in easily accessible and pre-made foods... We're working towards this in our restaurants, and will be debuting vegetarian tasting menus and really ramping up the vegetarian components for our upcoming projects."

Quality above all else

Bill Thomas, owner of Jack Rose Dining Saloon: "The key word is "simple" and by that I mean quality. People will put the greatest emphasis on the quality and selection of the food and drinks you serve. People are going to reduce it down to the core elements of the experience, which are ingredients and execution. From organic and local and fresh on the food side, to diverse and well-selected spirits and wine lists, interesting and well-crafted beers, followed by thoughtful and balanced cocktails. It’s back to the basics across the board...

People want to know what they’re eating, what farm it comes from, how it was harvested, how far it traveled… it’s the same with drinking. People want to know not only what types of spirits they’re drinking or what goes into their cocktail, but mash bills, distilleries, age, type of barrel, etc. People now want a side of education with their meals."

The best of both worlds

Bertrand Chemel, Chef at 2941: "I think we are going to see an increase in Vegetarian-focused dishes and restaurants, fine dining in a more causal atmosphere, and more duo concepts offering both a casual dining element (pizza oven, gastro pub, bistro style) with a fine dining element under the same roof."

What are your thoughts on the future of food? Share in the comments.

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