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The Changed Landscape of Restaurants

How the reinvention of restaurants post-Covid will see an adoption of new measures to win back old customers.
Not since the last great war has this planet's entire population been so directly affected by one common thread as it has now with Covid-19. Like our forefathers in the middle of the 20th century, coming off the battlefields of Europe and into the streets of a new United States, our lives have already begun to change in a way that we never could have predicted.

Restaurants, bars, concert halls, and convention centers across the nation remain closed. Once bustling kitchens are now dark and still, shuttered for months. Already most of us know of at least two or three favorite haunts that have been lost to financial difficulty. We can expect to see many more in the weeks ahead. Some estimates suggest that number could be as high as 15 or 20 percent.

With three months of isolation under our belts, our lives have substantially changed. What were once common social behaviors like heading out for an evening with friends, a romantic dinner for two, or even a happy hour after work, have become fond memories of the past. Even now, as we anticipate the eventual re-opening of our cities and the re-initialization of our lives, many are aghast at the idea of heading back into public, let alone sharing space with others in a confined restaurant.

But, like any trauma, there's no choice but to pick ourselves up off the ground, and get back in the saddle. In our industry, establishments have already begun implementing changes, both operational and technological, that will help rebuild customer confidence in the safety of our businesses.
As a society, we've already normalized constant hand-washing, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Along with frequent hand-washing, we've now become accustomed to staying six feet from one another. What was a huge annoyance just two months ago, having to wait in long lines to maintain distance, is now the norm, and day by day, people are learning that patience is a virtue. Gone (for now) are the days of packed restaurants with standing-room only clientele.

In the days ahead, we can expect that there will be restrictions on the number of tables allowed in a specific space, the number of chairs at a table, and perhaps even the number of patrons in a line. It will be interesting to see the creativity that restaurateurs come up with to manage within the new limitations. For example, 'H.A.N.D. Restaurant' in Paris, France is debuting a novel solution of plexiglas cylinders that envelop diners as they eat (see the article image). Some other restaurants have installed simple plastic walls between tables, and yet others are separating eating areas down to the individual level.
A woman eats a meal in a plastic walled cubicle
Obviously, patrons need to have access to hand-washing facilities, and wipes, gels, and sprays should be readily available, (perhaps right on the table). Unsurprisingly, customers will expect that all surfaces, dishes, and cutlery be fully sanitized as well, and some establishments have even begun wrapping entire, pre-set tables in cellophane as a way of certifying their cleanliness. We might even see booths such as this one installed at entrances.

At the same time, there will be a need to demonstrate that no one in the establishment is sick. Even though it has been shown that thermal scanners are not effective in the identification of Covid-19, perception is king, and it will be necessary to have some sort of scanning device at the door, or perhaps a system where the host uses a handheld reader.

Indeed, both employees and customers alike will need to have their temperatures checked, and it's not inconceivable to imagine that temperature scanning will soon be in place in all public areas. Already, some mega-brands such as KFC have instituted system-wide procedures to test temperatures before their employees begin a shift, to prevent those who do have an elevated temperature from working.

In terms of delivery, there's a huge drive to ensure food travels from the cook's hands to the client's table without being touched. According to marketwatch.com, 60% of all Pizza Hut orders are currently delivered 'touchfree' - going straight from the oven to a cardboard box, affixed with a tamper-proof safety seal, and then delivered to the customer's door. There's also the option of customers picking up their meals curbside, directly outside the store.

This whole concept of removing the human from the equation between the restaurant's kitchen and the client's home is going to evolve even more as time goes by. Eventually, Tom the pizza boy will morph to Fido, the pizza robot. Don't laugh - it's happening now in Medellin, Colombia, and if it's successful, it could mean the end of delivery drivers altogether.
Robot food delivery vehicle on the streets of Medellin, Colombia.
Another thing we can expect to see, largely driven by a perception that foreign products are 'riskier', is a reduction in specialty foods, especially those sourced from distant, exotic locales. People are looking for traditional, 'locally produced' meals that they consider safer. That could be great news for local farmers suffering financial loss from dramatic falls in demand. This company has found a method of growing crops in urban environments that is absolutely revolutionizing farming, and could perfectly satisfy the hospitality industry's demand.

Overall, we're seeing a massive shift in how people order and consume food. With consumers forced to eat at home, grocery stores and delivery companies are experiencing an enormous lift in sales volume, and people are, once again, becoming used to cooking their own home-made meals. In fact, Google has reported a 45% increase in the amount of people searching for cooking videos.

One major development that is going to persevere post-Covid is the extremely high unemployment rate. For the first time in decades, it's an employer's market. There are, and will continue to be, huge amounts of people out of work, and owners and managers will be able to pick and choose their resources. Revolutionary networks like Clockedin will be crucial, empowering companies to easily acquire staff with the exact skill set required.

Eventually, barring another outbreak, we'll get past all of this. As we have with every other tragedy in our history, we instinctively rebuild even better than before. In no time at all, we'll become accustomed to whatever the new normal is and all this will be a distant memory.

Book a meeting with us now and we'll show you how you can leverage the Clockedin network to find exactly the people you need - the ones who already have experience working in your specific brand, who can be productive from day one.
Mike Chartrand
Customer Success Manager
E-mail: mike@clockedin.com
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