The new dining reality: Shorter menus, quicker meals — and ugly-delicious dishes – The Washington Post

Every departure from his original dream was made to keep his staff employed, he says. “No one is going to order a $68 steak to go,” he thought when the pandemic emptied his dining room last year. Beran replaced eight ounces of dry-aged rib-eye with the same amount of hanger steak for $30. “Fancy food doesn’t travel well,” the chef says. So his dishes became more rustic (cassoulet was a recent possibility), and portions grew, giving customers the option of leftovers.

“We’ve gone from pressed duck served tableside to a glorified cheese sandwich,” he says — and from a menu with 32 dishes to a dozen.

Almost a year into what insiders liken to an extinction event for the industry, with 110,000 restaurants closed during the pandemic, diners are adjusting to the reality of fewer menu choices, briefer dining times, online ordering and dishes whose looks take a back seat to taste. “I want something that gives me a hug, not a challenge,” says Beran.

Some changes are apt to become permanent. “Gone are the days when I baked hundreds of pastries and hope people arrive,” says Kristen Hall, the pastry chef and co-owner behind Bandit Patisserie and the Essential, both in Birmingham, Ala. “Now they preorder.” That reduces the risk of waste, she says,