The “New Normal”: How Bars and Restaurants Around the World May Look Like Post-Pandemic

Empty bar called “Corona” still opens in Singapore downtown. (Featured on SilentCities Project called “New Emptiness”: Photo by Victor He.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the global economy into a screeching halt, with the food and beverage industry being one of the hardest hit by its impact. Restaurateurs are reeling from the financial loss as in-store traffic ceased due to the lock down, even forcing some to close their doors permanently. 

With the crisis still far from over, bar and restaurant owners will need to adapt as they shift their businesses to indulge the cravings of hungry foodies within the new “norm”.

What the new “normal” is going to be like

Let’s face it: the food and beverage industry will never go back to how it used to be. Gone are the days where people casually walk into a restaurant and enjoy dining in with their friends and loved ones, or see a bar filled to capacity on a Friday night. We will all have to contend with the new “normal” once lockdown is lifted.

Restaurateurs will have to abide by new government-imposed restrictions once the economy “reopens”. State officials have begun outlining guidelines for bars and restaurants to help flatten the curve

Physical distancing rules will continue to be observed to keep both the staff and the customers safe and avoid the risk of infection. To make this possible, bars and restaurants will have to diminish their capacity by 50%, designate more space between tables and guests, and reduce their hours of operation. 

Decontamination of the dining and kitchen area twice a day will soon be a part of the normal day to day operations. All staff members will be required to follow new strict precautionary measures such as checking their temperature before and after their designated shift, wearing face mask and gloves while on duty, and washing their hands thoroughly after each task. Even diners will have to undergo a temperature check before entering and leaving the premises. 

For restaurants that may not be able to adapt to these changes due to financial constraints, offering take-out and delivery services will be their new normal. 

These are just some of the major changes that we see happening as soon as the government eases quarantine restrictions. The question now is, how will the hospitality industry adapt to these changes?

Adapting to the New Restaurant Norm

One of the great things about the food and beverage industry is that it is such a dynamic sector. It gives you an opportunity to reinvent yourself and be adaptable, no matter how difficult the current situation may be. Below are some ways that will help you keep your business afloat and get ahead of your competitors during when the new normal sets in:

Reassessing current gameplans

For restaurateurs, sticking to old, tried, and tested business formula that worked before the coronavirus outbreak could spell disaster for now. Instead, business owners may use this time reevaluate strategy by asking themselves the following questions:

  • Are my employees healthy enough to come to work? 
  • Do I need to reduce my staff considering that there will be fewer walk-in customers to serve?
  • Can my suppliers still provide me with the same quality and quantity of goods that I need to run my restaurant?
  • How can we maintain a sense of normalcy for our clientele during this time of uncertainty?
  • Which branches should I re-open? Which locations should I shut down permanently?
  • Do I need to limit my offerings and my operating hours?

Try to do a soft opening to test your ideas and see how your patrons will respond to the new changes that you are going to implement.

Consider a contactless dining experience for your guests

Online food orders either via a website or through a mobile app have become increasingly popular these days since most people are expected to just stay at home. This contactless form of dining has given a lot of restaurants a fighting chance to survive this crisis, which is why more and more establishments are starting to shift their operations to contactless dining.

photo by @irina.vakaluk via Twenty20

If you are not yet offering a take-out and delivery service, now is the right time to do so.  Not only will it help cut your losses, but you can also use this as an opportunity to refocus your smaller branches to cater for take-out and delivery services, thereby eliminating the need to shut down those locations entirely.  

This, however, requires you to up your game by delivering the same top-quality service and experience that your clients usually get when they go physically to your venues. Also, give them an option to pay for their orders online. By delivering a positive and memorable experience through your take-out and delivery service, you are guaranteed to keep your patrons coming back for more.

Have a long-term plan in place

What if the country is hit by a second or third wave of this pandemic? How are you going to survive this?

Former restaurant consultant Laurie Aaronson stresses the need for creating a plan for the next 12 months in order to figure out your cash burns and money in reserve because short-term cash needs will surely come up because these days, taking out a loan to keep your business up and running may do more harm than good.

If your business is barely holding on, you may need to find a way to operate more profitably, otherwise, face the reality of shutting down operations permanently. 

Planning ahead will help you allocate your resources accordingly and mitigate your losses should the government impose another lock down. It will also put you in a better financial position and allow you to make better business decisions in the future that could save your business.

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