Why Padma Lakshmi Thinks It's So Important To Save The Restaurant Industry

The restaurant industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to an April 2021 report from the National Restaurant Association, 65% of restaurant operators who are still open have said their total volume of sales has decreased since the pandemic, and about 1.7 million jobs in the industry have been lost.

That is undoubtedly bad news for local economies, as well as individuals who work in restaurants and those who like to patronize them. But the shuttering of restaurants across the country is also a great cultural loss. After all, restaurants don't just offer their patrons delicious food. They also deliver an entire culinary experience, in which people are able to socialize, connect, and even make new friends, all over tasty dishes, some of which are unique foods that they might have otherwise never been exposed to. And while the Emmy-nominated host of "Top Chef," Padma Lakshmi, certainly knows a good dish of food when she sees it, she recently told Refinery 29 that it is actually not the meals themselves that she misses most about being able to go out to eat. "What I miss most is honestly sitting at a bar and having a beer and just people-watching," she said.

Restaurants are a place for people to connect with one another

Padma Lakshmi went on to talk about the important cultural impact restaurants have in New York City, explaining to Refinery 29 that there is "no other city where it's really possible to travel with your fork without ever leaving the city. What restaurants offer us is a window into each other's culture," adding, "If you think about our society, so much of how we celebrate and how we socialize is over food, and a lot of that is done at our favorite restaurant [...] They take us from just thinking 'I' to 'we' or 'us.' And that's really important for a society, especially when we're trying to come together." Restaurants are not simply a place to pick up a bite to eat but are an important part of a city's culture, and a lot is lost when these cultural gathering places are shuttered.

Lakshmi is currently working with the James Beard Foundation's Open For Good campaign, which is focused on helping revive and rebuild the small and independent restaurants. Hopefully, with their help, all our favorite restaurants can continue to keep their doors open, bringing their customers the delightful dining experience that makes eating out with friends and loved ones such an important part of many people's lives.