Jane Anderson: Growth and resilience flavored Asheville’s restaurant industry in 2019

Jane Anderson

Jane Anderson, executive director of Asheville Independent Restaurants, looks back at five notable happenings and trends from the past year in Asheville’s food and beverage scene.

Chow Chow: An Asheville Culinary Event. Being involved with designing a culinary festival for Asheville started when I started my job over six years ago. To see how it evolved, the passion of the chefs and makers that went into it and the work done personally by the individual people on the board to make the event as encompassing and as spectacular as it was just blew my mind.

Ben’s Friends substance abuse support group. The idea to start an Asheville Ben’s Friends chapter popped up over a year ago. We spent months talking to restaurant owners and chefs as we were trying to pull it together, and now to see people attend the meetings every week has just been incredible.

Changing restaurant culture. The common food and beverage industry mindset of “Let’s all go out and get drunk or high after we finish our shift” is not sustainable for people. So our restaurants are now working on creating individual cultures that support people who want to stay in this line of business and grow in it.

Environmental sustainability. There are more voices than ever before who are talking about sustainability and food waste both in and outside the local restaurant industry. We’ve got some vendors interested, we’ve got Asheville GreenWorks, we’ve got AIR members — I think these issues are going to continue to be at the forefront of the conversation for restaurants.

Resilience. People always come up to me and say, “Oh, more new restaurants,” or “More restaurants are closing.” But it dawned on me that most of the closures this past year have been chain or concept restaurants, like Takosushi and Famous Toastery. Our organization continues to grow because our members are creating new concepts and locations. And I think that’s pretty cool — we’re seeing the sustainability of the independents. We’re up to 170 member restaurants, and when I started at AIR in 2013, we had 60 members.

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