Struggle for survival still an issue for Tallahassee restaurants in 2022

by Tallahassee Table

Outdoor dining and takeout here to stay, with more emphasis on hyper-local food; mushrooms and microgreens will be popping up everywhere.

Food trends are generally born of creativity and experimentation but for 2022, add necessity to the formula. 

The food and hospitality industries are still reeling from the impact of COVID-19, dealing with issues such as staffing shortages, reduced hours, smaller menus, higher prices and outdoor dining and takeout demands. 

For more than a year, restaurant owners and chefs have done more pivoting than a prima ballerina. 

“More than any time in our past, trends for this year are going to be driven by necessity as well as creativity,” said Geoff Luebkemann, senior vice president of The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. “Necessity means dealing with two huge problems, a historic shortage of labor and supply chain problems that during the pandemic, have been a challenge every step of the way.”

“COVID fatigue is a real thing,” he said. 

Talk to local restaurateurs and they’ll admit the “everyday struggles” continue to be a burden.

La Tiendita Mexican and Brazilian Restaurant is one of many Tallahassee restaurants that created outdoor dining because of a demand. Photo: Tallahassee Table

“I see people trying to survive,” said Nora Getz, co-owner of La Tiendita Mexican and Brazilian Restaurant. “That’s the talk of the town – restaurants trying to survive in these times.”

Yet, despite these somber challenges – and because of them — we will undoubtedly see some trends that are innovative or just plain fun in 2022. We’re not looking for more rainbow bagels, unicorn lattes or cronuts, but who knows what will be hot – or not – this year. 

The article also includes a look at what some of our food savvy folks hope to see in ’22. Here are a couple examples:

Keith Baxter, executive chef/owner of Kool Beanz Cafe wants to see more people be aware of our local food scene. Photo: Tallahassee Democrat

Keith Baxter, executive chef/owner of Kool Beanz: “I’d like for this pandemic to stop messing with our business… I’d like to see more people have a greater awareness and understanding of our amazing local food.”

Geoff Luebkemann, senior vice president of The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association: “I would like to see more civility and kindness. Yes, we’re all tired of being cooped up and have expectations when we go out, but we’ve got to be kinder to one another. There’s nothing more heartbreaking to an owner than to have a line out the door and empty tables, because there’s not enough help in the kitchen or servers didn’t show up. My number one request: Everybody, please be kind.”

Aaron Nicely, co-owner of the Handsome Harvest Farm: “I’d like to go to a fancy restaurant and one of the things that makes it special is all the fresh herbs and oils that make dishes really pop and really sophisticated.”

Cari Roth, president of the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance: “I’d like to see the community more aware of the treasures we have. I’d like to see people try harder to support their local producers. It’s easier than they think.”

For more about what’s going to be a trend or a continuing pattern, I hope you’ll turn to my story in the Tallahassee Democrat at:

Here’s a gallery of some pictures that help tell the story.

Microgreens are growing in popularity. Brothers Daniel and Jordan Miranda started with four varieties of microgreens at their Legacy Greens urban farm and they now grow about 20 varieties and blends vertically in a 2,000-square foot, climate controlled warehouse. Photo: Tallahassee Table
Michaela Teasley, owner of Tally Kombucha Taproom pours a glass of peach thyme kombucha. Photo: Alicia Devine / Tallahassee Democrat
The flip side of to-go meals is that “going out to eat is going to become more of a big deal,” said William Lawson, executive/chef and owner of Mimi’s Table. “People are wanting to make plans and meet friends. It’s a heightened experience, Before we took a lot of that for granted.” Photo: Tallahassee Democrat
Shishandra Devlin, owner of Bougie with a Board, poses with one of her creations. Individual boards and boxes are among the new trends for charcuterie. Photo: Bougie with a Board
Aaron Nicely and Derek Phillips, owners of Handsome Harvest Farm in Quincy, are seeing more people turning to farmers markets and the Red Hills Online Market to get locally grown food. Photo: Handsome Harvest
Looking to the future, Jason Card, founder and manager of Ology Coffee said “I’d like to see a mixing of business models. Rents are so high. I think sharing spaces would be more sustainable.”  Photo: Tallahassee Table
Amanda Morrison, co-owner of Poco Vino, shown here at the opening of the downtown wine shop and event space, said “There’s a huge trend nationwide of natural wines. We’re talking about wines with low intervention that are grown without pesticides or herbicides, without being manipulated.” Photo via Poco Vino.
Mushrooms are getting hugely popular, with Play of Sunlight urban farm a main source of specialty mushrooms in Tallahassee and statewide. Golden mushrooms are one variety they grow. Photo: Play of Sunlight
We’re eating more vegetables. Plant-based foods are gaining more momentum. These dishes are from The Bark, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant in the All Saints Neighborhood. Photo / Tallahassee Table

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