Before the COVID-19 pandemic, no one thought twice about dining in a crowded restaurant, touching shared menus, and breathing in the general direction of others.
We were comfortable. We felt safe.
Before we knew it, the virus dominated headlines and economies alike. We were reminded that no place in the world was immune to the quick spread of COVID-19.
In many places around the world, restrictions are loosening, and the global populace is tentatively emerging from the isolation of lockdowns and quarantines. Three questions are on our minds:
When can we go back to normal?
Should we go back to normal?
Is THIS the new normal?
Most of us would like nothing better than to resume our once-carefree lifestyle. But, in a post-COVID world, some of the shifts we’ve seen might be preferable to the way things were before:
The Takeout Takeover
Even though take-out has become a new normal, a recent study by QSR showed “nearly eight in 10 adults said their favorite restaurant foods deliver flavor and taste sensations that just can’t be duplicated at home.” The same study found 67% of adults stating they haven’t been able to dine-in at restaurants as much as they would like.
So, we know people want to go back to restaurants! The question is whether the increased demand for take-out and delivery will continue.
The NRA 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry Report shared that 53% of consumers say takeout and delivery are essential to the way they live, and 67% of millennials say delivery availability impacts their choice of one restaurant over another. Coupled with a steady increase in delivery as a percentage of total sales from 2013 to now, it’s a safe bet that the trend will continue well past the pandemic.
The Case for Contactless
Remember when QR codes were SO 2000’s? It’s funny that the pandemic was the great redeemer of QR code technology, and now that we’re over a year into this crisis, we can’t deny the usefulness of this and other contactless solutions.
Aside from the obvious safety benefits, there are other perks that suggest this change is here to stay. For one, consider the cost savings of never having to reprint physical menus every time your offering changes…or that “cute” kid decides to scribble all over one with permanent marker. Another upside is the increased efficiency of allowing patrons to order, pay, and even take surveys on their own. All things considered, contactless is a keeper in our book.
Outdoor Dining Delight
What began as a means of survival amidst the roiling tides of CDC guidelines has blossomed into something many restaurant goers have come to enjoy.
Many upscale eateries that previously lacked outdoor seating went all out in their efforts to entice diners, constructing elaborate facades, adding ambiance-enhancing lighting, and even positioning small trees around seating areas. As a result, many diners are expecting outdoor seating to become a standard practice in 2021, prompting designers to incorporate such things into future restaurant plans.
Time will tell how much the public continues to embrace outdoor dining. What is certain is that restaurants should think twice before simply resuming “business as usual”, because some of the changes arising from the pandemic era may be changes for the better.