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D.C. Restaurant Experts Share Their Biggest Hopes for the Industry in 2024

Taking on service charges and high rent

tipping laws
Some dining experts would like to see restaurants reconsider high service fees.

Following an Eater tradition, we asked a group of restaurant critics, journalists, bloggers, and industry pros to weigh in on the year in food. Their answers to an annual “Year in Eater” survey will be revealed in several posts. Final thoughts: the panel reflects on their biggest hopes for the restaurant industry this year.

Tom Sietsema, Washington Post food critic: The price of everything has gone up. People should know that extends to dining establishments. I’d like to see restaurants charge diners the real cost of a meal away from home rather than pad checks with service and other fees. (A critic can dream!)

Tim Carman, Washington Post reporter and columnist: More restaurant owners are figuring out new compensation and work-life models for their employees. A new generation of owners has learned how to keep their workers happy, by either providing them with a living wage or a shorter and more flexible work week, or both. I hope more restaurants follow this lead.

Jessica Sidman, Washingtonian food editor: This year, diners and restaurants were fed up with each other over prices, service, and all the new fees and tipping expectations. This feels naively optimistic to say, but maybe we can all have more empathy for one another?

Nycci Nellis, TheListAreYouOnIt.com publisher: I want this industry to prosper. I want 2024 to be the moment industry leaders and city officials come together to address the daunting issues of crime, high rents, and the lack of affordable housing for restaurant workers.

David Hagedorn, Arlington Magazine/Bethesda Magazine dining columnist: Aside from wishing all restaurants abundant prosperity in 2024, it’s my fervent hope that restaurateurs will stop expecting us to eat and share meals on bread-and-butter plates. My tombstone will read, “He just wanted a dinner plate!”

Paola Velez, Author, owner of Smallorchids INC and co-founder of Bakers Against Racism: Nationally, I hope that the government sees how important our industry is for the economy and I hope they begin to fold us into their plans for reconstruction, restoration after the pandemic. Our industry is struggling and we need systems that protect restaurants to be able to flourish and grow for the future.

Rick Chessen, Rick Eats DC blogger: So many hopes. For the easing of inflation and labor and supply chain issues. For a compensation system that treats employees fairly without confusing customers. For D.C. to have one good Jewish deli. And for restaurants in Penn Quarter, for Ted Leonsis to wake up like Scrooge on Christmas morning and realize he needs to set everything right.

Angie Duran, director of operations at Duo Group, VIN. VITALITÉ cofounder: I hope everyone is a little more intentional about supporting places they love. The cost of doing business is the highest it has ever been; a lot of operators are still COVID-burned. I know we all want to try out new places, but if there is something you really love, make a point of visiting monthly, buy gift cards, recommend, and always share. There are so many hardworking and immensely talented people in our city; be as intentional about supporting them as they are when they serve you.