Hawksmoor CEO Will Beckett has predicted the post-pandemic restaurant scene will be focussed on quality and innovation, which will see a new a generation of young, talented operators coming through the ranks.

Beckett said the casual dining scene had become too fixated on cheap and cheerful offerings, which he said had devalued the experience of eating out.

The Hawksmoor co-founder hopes the new dynamic, involving fewer restaurants, bit new competition from start-ups, will lead to more “confident, honest” pricing among the remaining operators.

He was speaking ahead of his appearance at MCA’s Restaurant Conference on Tuesday, where he will talk about hospitality workforces.

Beckett suggested the over-reliance on discounting long-predated the Eat Out to Help Out, and suggested was partly a result of there being too many restaurants in the market.

“People were almost a bit blasé about restaurants, thinking, ‘they come and go, whatever, it means nothing to me’, he said.

“People were undervaluing what they sold their food for, making their profit margins small, which meant they started cutting corners, and it just became a little bit toxic.

He continued: “I do think we need the dust to settle on what post-covid hospitality looks like. It’s certainly plausible to me that there’s a really big pent up demand for restaurants, that you will be able to be more confident in your pricing, partly because there’ll be fewer restaurants.

“I also think there will be a lot of start-ups, and they will compete in a different way to how people have competed with restaurants previously, which is to try and get the best site, and do it cheap and colourful.

“I think there’s going to be a lot more focus on quality and innovation. There certainly was after the 2008/2010 recession. I’ve got a feeling we’ll all find that we’re being challenged by new young, talented people who can afford to open restaurants now.

“I hope that that will lead to a more kind of honest pricing and restaurants.”

The Restaurant Conference is streaming online on Tuesday (26 January) from 9.30am - 12.30pm. To book your place, click here