At the close of the year, we always try to reconcile the ledger columns of freshly opened restaurants with the ones that closed. Late this fall, as we pulled together a short list of 2019’s Best New Restaurants, something struck me. We had a bunch of survivors on our hands.

More than in years past, a number of places—rough count: more than 20—refused to close and instead decided to reboot, relaunch, and take a stab at revival. Seeking that second chance from eaters takes some humility and some strategic thinking. Things aren’t working? That’s probably apparent from the receipts. But you may need to dig pretty deep to figure out why. And then ante up for a makeover—or a real overhaul.

I believe that with all the looming economic uncertainty—continual wage hikes, rising real estate costs, tariffs on food imports—local restaurateurs are starting to look for creative solutions. Remember that the gloom of 2008 led food people to launch the food truck revolution. What’s the next innovation? A nostalgic menu? A cuisine or subspecialty that no one has served here before? It feels like restaurateurs can’t afford to dig in with puffed egos and say, love it or leave it.

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