When the COVID pandemic closed restaurants, forcing the hospitality industry to pivot, restructure, rethink, and change in so many ways, The Boston Globe stopped running regular restaurant reviews. Now, more than two years later, it is time to bring them back, starting this week.
The industry still faces so many challenges. There’s a serious shortage of labor. Prices are high. Ingredients and equipment can be unpredictable to procure and slow to arrive. The business model, with its slim margins, is less sustainable than ever. There are inequities everywhere, from wages to liquor license distribution. And, although President Biden recently declared the pandemic over, many public health officials disagree (and would really like you to get that booster).
But this is what I guess one might call the new normal (as if there were ever an old normal). People are going out to eat. New restaurants are opening apace (see my story last week on ones I’m excited about this fall). Where should you spend your money, and on what? What is truly worth celebrating right now?
That’s where we’ll begin — with a celebration. But one thing will be different from before. Literally: one. The Globe’s reviews have always utilized a four-star system, which ran from “poor” to “excellent” without much room to maneuver. I have a love-hate relationship with these stars, which reduce nuance to widgets but are also useful and fun. So they’re not going anywhere, but we are adding a star for restaurant reviews. We’ll kick off this new five-star review system fittingly: with five 5-star reviews, one a week for five consecutive weeks. In addition to offering suggestions of places to eat a great meal, these reviews will collectively tell a story about what excellence can mean in these parts circa 2022.
It should be interesting.