Matt deGrood

It feels like every day, you hear about some pandemic-related measure that “might be here to stay.”

That phrase has become so common over the nearly two years of the coronavirus pandemic, but just because we’ve become inured to it, doesn’t mean the words don’t still hold important meaning.

There are two ways we will emerge from this pandemic one day: Either we will come out changed, and stronger for it, or we will struggle to regain the familiarity and comfort of the world we knew beforehand.

And, as pandemics of yesteryear have shown, maybe it’s not a bad thing to use them as an opportunity to rethink the way we conduct business.

Our story this week about restaurants in Fort Bend County investing in the theory that outdoor dining is here to stay is a perfect example of this.

While I must leave it to the experts to discern the bigger trends, I can acknowledge that my family and I have begun to prioritize outdoor dining far more than we did before the pandemic. And it’s only partially because of our concern about the virus.

Simply put, Fort Bend County retains warmer temperatures through much of the year, and who doesn’t enjoy the feeling of enjoying a good meal between friends and family while taking in the outdoors? It took the pandemic to remind us of that fact, but now that we have been, we aren’t going back anytime soon.

By spending money now to prepare for a more outdoor-heavy dining scene, restaurants in Fort Bend County are betting big on a future different from the one we left behind. And I would argue it’s a question all businesses and organizations should ask themselves in coming months – how will the world look different in 2022 and 2023 than it did in 2019?

The Great Resignation of 2021 is another example that the currents of change are swift, but sometimes unseen. Why are people changing jobs and quitting in unprecedented numbers, even before the unemployment rate had stabilized?

Guesses earlier in the pandemic were that people were choosing to sit at home and collect higher-than-typical unemployment benefits rather than join the rat race that is the job search. But Texas has since opted to terminate those enhanced unemployment benefits early, and has seen little benefit compared to other states that didn’t.

Clearly, the answer to the question is something different, and perhaps infinitely more complex, than initially suspected.

Innovation is a beautiful thing. We here at the Fort Bend Star have immense respect for the restaurants that, after nearly two years of pandemic-related economic interruption, have already begun planning for and investing in a post-pandemic future. It’s that sort of long-term thinking that will make life better, not just for those restaurant employees, but for patrons and residents from across the county.

And far be it to limit innovation to the realm of business. How can healthcare companies and nonprofit organizations evolve to better serve residents, volunteers and customers?

It’s easy forget this now, but life in 2019 was far from perfect. The coronavirus pandemic has placed a damper on many aspects of life, from the economy to our family gatherings. But if we consider the future with as much of an open mind and dedication to innovation as those restaurants that are building for more outdoor dining, there’s a chance we might emerge a better country.

I hope all of our readers had a good holiday break, and had a chance to commemorate the start of 2022. My hope for this year is that we may all have better, happier days ahead.

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