The “pandemic” is a buzzword that has drastically changed the way people do business. The ongoing coronavirus crisis, for instance, has disrupted every area of the restaurant sector, from supply chain and logistics to people’s attitudes around dining and safety.
If you’re a customer looking to dine in a restaurant from a state or country that’s coming out from a lockdown order, you’ll find restaurateurs getting creative about managing their medium- to long-term business operations. They adhere to health-related guidelines and other regulations to keep their staff and customers safe during these extraordinary times.
Here are six trends that are changing the consumer dining experience in restaurants:
Day-to-day restaurant operations are different, so long as the coronavirus is still present. Restaurateurs now have to factor in social distancing policies. These rules may vary depending on where you are in the world.
Some restaurants, for instance, have installed durable acrylic shields or glass barriers on dining tables to adhere to physical distancing rules. Others keep their capacity to 50 percent or less while placing the tables at least six feet apart from each other.
Some dining establishments have gotten creative when implementing physical distancing measures. A three-star Michelin restaurant, for example, uses mannequins dressed in 1940s outfits to implement social distancing rules.
You can expect less crowded restaurants during the pandemic. The downside, unfortunately, is that a dining establishment can only accommodate a limited number of customers. If you plan to invite 15 friends for continental breakfast, for instance, this won’t work for two reasons: this may exceed the restaurant capacity and you’ll have to sit apart from one another to observe social distancing.
When customers search for a sit-down restaurant, they want to have a safe and pleasurable dining experience. Restaurants do their best to win over diners by showcasing their hygiene practices. You may see employees cleaning and sanitizing high-contact areas, such as entryways, tables and condiment stations. You may also find dining establishments doing away with traditional paper menus and using ordering devices (which employees will sanitize after you leave).
Some states have banned indoor seating in restaurants and other dining establishments. Restaurateurs worked their way around that policy by setting out tables outdoors – on the sidewalk, on partially closed streets and even in alleys. If you’re in the mood for al fresco dining, you’re in luck, as many urban centers have started to resemble European squares filled with outdoor cafe’s.
This setup, however, has a disadvantage. Dining outside isn’t pleasant when the weather is freezing cold or hot and humid. When the conditions are good, however, you can enjoy both the food and the outdoor ambiance.
Group and outdoor dining can be difficult to pull off due to social distancing measures and unpleasant weather conditions. This, however, presents another business opportunity for restaurateurs. Rather than cater to group and outdoor diners, they can attract individual diners and solo foodies.
Some restaurateurs in the U.S. started introducing individual enclosed dining structures. They go by different names, such as private dining pods, igloos, domes and bubble tents.
What’s unique about these enclosed structures is that they’re insulated against cold air – perfect for people who prefer to private dining during wintertime. These private pods also have built-in filtration or air circulation systems to reduce the likelihood of coronavirus incubation.
Solo dining may persist even after the pandemic subsides. Restaurants situated in cooler climates may find a clientele who wants to enjoy an exclusive private dining experience.
If you’re used to paying with cash or handing your credit card to the server or cashier, you’ll want to change this behavior. Restaurants have started introducing contactless ordering and payment systems to cut down physical contact between diners and staff.
You can check out the restaurant menus and wine lists digitally by using your mobile phone to scan the QR code. When you need to pay for your meal, you can use a payment app or a virtual credit card.
Some dining establishments have gone beyond offering dine-in, delivery and takeout. They’re now doubling as food shops, selling do-it-yourself meal kits and staples, such as milk, eggs, pasta and rice. Others are introducing virtual cooking classes (sometimes free, while others charge an access fee) to customers. People will purchase the meal kit from the restaurant, head home and follow the instructional video.
If these measures remain profitable, they’ll stick around even when restaurant dining returns in full force.
The consumer dining experience will no longer be the same because of the pandemic. Even when the global health crisis is over, you can expect restaurants to constantly evolve, as they respond to changing diner tastes, new policies, social pressures and new technologies.