Totally unscientific statistic alert: more than 80% of the people who share their dream business idea with me across a dinner table, or confide in me during a quick curbside chat, declare their intention to create something in food or drink. I smile and nod enthusiastically, while images of what I know to be some of the toughest, most tedious and highest-risk startup scenes flash before my eyes.
The truth is that whether it's a small cafe, a multi-floor restaurant, a niche organic wine brand or a new-age mixer destined to conquer every bar in the world, food and drink is hard. Competition is fierce, tastes are fickle, the work day is brutal and the rewards often scant (when was the last time you heard of the venture-capital world exiting a 100x return food concept?).
So, you'd think this – my intro to our annual and always popular food and drink issue – would be a warning. And, perhaps if I just went by the stats, it should be. But the truth is that, while it certainly isn't a journey for the meek, the urge to feed our fellow humans is one of the most ancient commercial drives and one of the most satisfying paths a founder can follow.
Since time immemorial, we've sought to liberate people from the tedium of foraging and cooking and, if we can, excite their taste buds, too. We might think of street food as a modern phenomenon but, if you could wander down any road in ancient Greece or Rome, you'd find countless vendors serving their equivalent of fast food, alongside markets and stores stocked with produce from all corners of the empire.
Then, as now, food and drink offers the ultimate in consumer demand. At least three times a day every person on the globe feels a desire to eat, and the selling of a great meal or a refreshing beverage has a pretty low barrier to entry. Home kitchens, small street carts and space on the counter of a local store represent incredibly easy opportunities to get started.
So, here's to all those hardy enough to give it a go. As Covid looks to finally be receding in most parts of the world, we've especially sought out the newly emerged green shoots beginning to rebuild a sector that was especially hard hit by the pandemic. From a Congolese vegan restaurant challenging the meat-based culture of the São Paulo dining scene to a survey of five heritage-based fusion cuisines that you're sure to hear more about this year, we're excited to bring you the very latest from the front lines of the food and beverage revolution. Prost!