February 1, 2023

‘Another learning year’: What the dining scene will look like in 2023

Forging ahead through this new year, we’re emerging from some of the hardest days of the pandemic and seeing a possible economic recession looming over us. In 2023, many are wondering what this could mean for the restaurant industry, a sector that has had to pivot and innovate in order to survive. While the dining world must navigate an environment that is  constantly changing, industry professionals are anticipating that this year will be one of creativity and growth.

We recently asked industry professionals and readersfor their hopes and predictions for the 2023 restaurant scene, and we heard a few key themes. Nia Grace, owner of Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen and The Underground Cafe + Lounge, said that she thinks this will be “another learning year” – a time to put our thinking caps back on.

“We almost got comfortable again, in the last year. This will just continue to make us be more creative and get uncomfortable,” Grace told She added that 2023 “is going to be back to the year of throwing it all against the wall [and seeing] what sticks, because we might not have that out of the box success [like in 2022], when we were feeling like we were getting back to our normal space.”

The National Restaurant Association released areport in November that outlined 2023 trends we can expect to see in the industry. These included restaurant experiences, celebratory and culinary forms of exploration. While the recession is a concern, Grace believes many customers are hungry for live music and other cultural elements being part of their dining. Restaurants streamlining their menus and focusing on best sellers will be another trend, the report shared.

Irene Li, owner of Mei Mei, said that this year, she believes more pop-ups will go brick and mortar, predicting that the restaurant scene is “fertile ground” for growth. We may also see more collaborations, or “stores within stores,” like Carolicious, an arepa shop within Aeronaut Brewing Company in Somerville. Dining may continue to be formatted differently, like in the case of Cafe Sushi, which stopped being a sit down restaurant in 2020 and now only offers takeout and delivery, in addition to its newly opened Cafe Sushi Shoten, a grab-and-go sushi and saki shop.