Restaurants may never be the same, cry food critics, food lovers and business owners around the world. As the global pandemic causes devastation to the hospitality industry, suppliers, owners and customers are beginning to rethink the concept of eating out in the near future and possibly for the long term.
We love eating out. We depend on it for socialising, celebrating landmark events, learning about different cultures through the food they bring to the high street and of course for the luxury of being cooked for, served and cleaned up after.
The idea that the industry is on the verge of oblivion is unthinkable, but the outlook is bleak for restaurant landlords with extortionate rents, tight cashflow, increasing overheads and the dramatic decline in recreational dining and tourism.
As most restaurants across the globe have been forced to close or have switched to takeaway and delivery, owners are beginning to think about innovative solutions to stay in business as the world begins to open up, tentatively and slowly.
The BBC reported on a restaurant in Amsterdam that is thinking outside the box in a bid to keep customers safe and happy. The team at Mediamatic is experimenting with ways to get people dining out again and adjusting from isolation to returning to eating out. They have set out individual greenhouses outside their restaurant with tables inside them to offer ‘Covid-secure dining’. This way they can satisfy the strict regulations stating that customers and staff must maintain a 1.5m distance imposed as the Dutch hospitality industry starts operating.
This restaurant is determined to adapt, and others will be following suit in the weeks ahead, fundamentally rethinking their practices, without losing sight of what made them great in the first place.
In the UK, a campaign to safely restart the hospitality industry by transforming public spaces and streets into al fresco dining spaces while adhering to physical distancing is gathering pace with a host of multi-site operators giving their backing. Launched by Alan Lorrimer, the #UKGrandOutDoorCafe campaign proposes that seating on pavements, squares and open spaces outside of restaurants and bars should be permitted. He is campaigning for the government to issue a directive to grant local authorities a temporary deregulation to allow tables and chairs outside existing hospitality businesses.
Many restaurants have started creating new business models that complement eating at home such as selling produce from their suppliers directly to consumers including luxury food items that would normally be components of meals.
Knock-on effects will be felt as food suppliers will have to adapt their business models, perhaps requiring a complete overhaul of their current operations, from food sourcing to manufacturing, logistics, delivery and hygiene. There will be requirements to carry out Covid-19 risk assessments in consultation with workers and to implement more stringent cleaning processes, amongst a sea of further changes.
Life behind the scenes is frenetic and innovative and customers await solutions expectantly for the ‘new eating out’. One thing is certain, with the industry pulling together and thinking outside of the box, the day will come when we can once again enjoy the luxury of eating out with our friends and loved ones.
Fingers crossed, for our sanity and the UK economy, we won’t have to wait too long!