How the restaurant industry has evolved and reshaped since

How the restaurant industry has evolved and reshaped since

I am not satisfied with any primary impulse, but the pandemic has shown us how much we want them in our lives. Economic and social forces have shaped the history of restaurants, and its knowledge can give us clues today about what this sector will look like.

April 9, 2020 remains the darkest day in the history of the restaurant industry. The imposition of a lockdown to curb the spread of the SARS-VOC-2 virus, combined with the fear of people meeting again, has made reservations on the OpenTable website (normally in the millions for covering restaurants in America, Australia). , UK) to be zero.

Now that the world is slowly returning to normal, many restaurants, even the most dilapidated ones, are facing another problem – the lack of manpower (Le Gavroche, one of London’s luxury restaurants, no longer has a general manager). In addition, the pandemic put an end to the unprecedented development of the sector. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of restaurants in the UK increased by 26%, and Americans spent, for the first time, more than half of the total budget normally allocated for food.

And the real estate market has undergone some changes – the rich from Hong Kong to Los Angeles have preferred to rent apartments without kitchens, wanting to dine in the city.

What is surprising about The Economist’s analysis is that only with the closure of the restaurants did people realize how much they actually appreciated them. Eating in the city covers needs that seem fundamental to human nature – people need to meet, do business or just wink at their peers. At a good restaurant you can travel without actually traveling or you can simply feel pampered. For those who don’t know, restaurants are only a few hundred years old in the form we know today.


People have always chosen to eat and party outside. Archaeologists have discovered 158 bar-like sites in Pompeii, the city destroyed by the lava of Mount Etna in 79 BC. It would mean a bar for 60-100 people, a higher rate than many metropolises in the world have today.

The Londoners had cooked food in public places since 1170. And Samuel Cole, one of the first settlers, is also considered the first owner of an American tavern opened in Boston in 1634.

All I listed here were not restaurants as we know them today, but places where you could pack your food or receive it at a bar with a drink.

The set menu that appeared in France around the time of the American Samuel Cole brought with it the idea of ​​a restaurant that we have today – customers sat at a table and ate what was brought to them (table d’hôte), a trend that returns today. Many of these proto-restaurants looked more like quasi-charitable community canteens for locals and certainly not a place for the wealthy.

Before the seventeenth century, when coal was to become a widely used fuel, home cooking involved burning a large amount of wood, which increased the cost of food. Along with coal, professional kitchens appear – an advantage because they produce more food at the same energy consumption. Even today, eating in the city is seen as a treat, but in fact, it comes from a history in which it was the cheapest food. Which is why it was an activity with a lower status. The rich preferred to eat at home, enjoying the luxury of having servants available to cook them.


In time, however, the idea that a respectable person eats in the city begins to gain ground. Wilton’s Restaurant was opened in London in 1792, and The Three Blackbirds appeared in Dublin, considered the oldest (opened in 1775 and known for its Madeira wine). In New York, the oldest restaurant is considered the Fraunces Tavern, most likely opened in 1762 (it is still open today and serves traditional American food, from shellfish soup to steak).

Some historians have focused on the supply chain to explain this change, arguing that the emergence of the restaurant as we know it today is related to a competitive trend. The guilds, once extremely strong, prevented the simultaneous sale of two different products – for example, butchers had a monopoly on the sale of meat. The rise of restaurants serving many types of food has led to the fall of these trade barriers. There is the apocryphal story of Monsieur Boulanger in Paris, a restaurant that served mutton cooked in white wine sauce, an illegality – the guilds claimed then. The trial was adjourned, but Monsieur Boulanger won. It is the moment that, in the middle of the 18th century, marks the beginning of open markets.

Laws began to appear (in the United Kingdom, in 1860) to allow food and wine to be served in the same place. At the same time, in some American states, laws were being issued regarding the quality of food served, so that more and more customers were gaining confidence to eat outside the home.

Food & status

To enter the heyday, however, restaurants needed another ingredient – for wealthy people to eat in front of others. Until the 18th century, elites perceived public spaces as dirty and dangerous. With capitalism, public space has become more and more a place of rational dialogue open to all. As the French poet Charles Baudelaire observed, nineteenth-century cities became places where people indulged in consumption, in fact asserting their status. They become the natural habitat of the stroller, a place to see and be seen. The fixed table (table d’hôte) has been abandoned in favor of the à la carte menu. Eating in the city was no longer about satisfying your need for food, but rather a cultural experience and an opportunity – also an observation made by Baudelaire – for the rich to flaunt their status (ordering more than they needed) .

From that point on, restaurant development gained momentum throughout the twentieth century. The number of employees in the sector increased fourfold in the United States, and the first Michelin guide was to appear in 1900 (the famous stars of the same name began to be awarded 26 years later).

This uninterrupted rise of the sector to the time of the COVID-19 pandemic remains an economic puzzle. Cooking at home has become easier than ever – the size of residential buildings has increased, household appliances have made the whole process easier and cooking, and after-cleaning, eating in the city has become more expensive. In the USA, in 1930, a meal in the city cost 25% more than the equivalent cooked and consumed at home, and by 2014 the gap reached 280%.


There are three economic changes that have ensured the success of restaurants, despite the rising cost of a meal in the city.

The first is immigration. In the five decades since the end of World War II, the number of migrants to rich countries has quadrupled. Starting a restaurant business is often a win-win move for newcomers.

The second factor is the change in the microeconomics of a household. Food preparation has not only visible costs, but also so-called hidden costs, including time spent shopping and cooking.

In the twentieth century, as more and more women began to work outside the home, so did the hidden costs of home cooking – a housewife who cooked when she got home sacrificed time that could have been used to earn money. more money. Therefore, eating in the city made economic sense, even if it was more expensive.

The third factor is the change in work patterns. Historically, poorer people worked longer hours than the wealthiest. In the second half of the twentieth century, this paradigm was reversed – the knowledge-based economy and globalization made the rich work harder, with greater financial rewards and personal satisfaction. Late work has become a status symbol. One effect has been that, in recent years, those with money have come to allocate more and more money to the out-of-town compared to the less affluent.

Well, what does this review of their evolution tell us about the future of restaurants? People are eager to come out again – in the last weeks of 2021, the level of global bookings has approached that of the pre-pandemic. On the other hand, the pandemic has pushed people to order and eat at home (Uber’s food delivery revenue now exceeds that of passenger transportation). Some have rediscovered their passion for cooking.

As a result, restaurants only have to adapt. That is, to move further away from the utilitarian model of the eighteenth century and to pack the culinary experience into an emotional experience marked by romance and glamor.

Culinary fashions

In a $ 5.7 trillion food and service industry, chefs are celebrities, and food itself is a social media star.

RADIOGRAPHY. Stacker radiographed the driving forces that changed the food industry and man’s relationship with food. If in the early years of the nineteenth century it was very fashionable to eat as sophisticated as possible, people began to prefer products as simple, natural and low in calories. CHANGES. In a plaster study conducted in early 2021 that covered 28 countries, 63% of consumers said they rarely ate at local restaurants.