It would be fair to say that of all the industries and business niches that felt the effects of the coronavirus, it was the restaurant and hospitality sector that bore more than its fair share of the decimation that wrought its havoc on us all.
The number of restaurants and bars that were closed permanently over the course of the initial outbreak was mind-blowing, with estimates suggesting as many as 10% were shut for good, and though we are starting to ease our way back to normality, it will take a while for the industry to fully recover.
The pandemic has had such an effect on the industry that, in many ways, the entire landscape may have shifted. There are some aspects that will take time to adjust to and others that have changed perhaps forever. With that in mind, let’s take a look at different ways in which COVID has shaped the restaurant and bar scene.
Those Restaurants Who Had a Plan of Action, Survived
While it’s true that the COVID pandemic isn’t one that businesses could have directly planned for or mitigated against, those establishments that were on a more sturdy footing coped best.
If a new restaurant opened prior to the coronavirus outbreak, then one that had a good deal of financial backing or measures in place for a downturn in revenue was more likely to come out the other side relatively unscathed.
Businesses that were riding their coattails up to the point of the pandemic, therefore, were already facing issues before the unthinkable happened. This is a key reason why restaurants, on the whole, have such a high level of failure rate. Planning for all eventualities is key to their very survival.
New Approach to Takeout Menus
Adapt or die. When the pandemic hit, the restrictions and guidelines put in place by municipalities meant that capacities were hit and, in some cases, customers weren’t allowed on premises at all.
This led to a massive surge in takeout orders, and that’s where some restaurants actually thrived in the new environment. Some restaurants, before COVID, didn’t pay enough attention to this sector of their business and paid a high price.
Those who already saw a large percentage of their revenue coming from takeout simply continued that trend, expanded their takeout ranges, and even looked to scale up the level of quality in this area, knowing that it was basically keeping them afloat.
Indeed you can expect the takeout area of a restaurant’s business to continue to grow as the public’s approach to eating out may now have irreversibly shifted.
Different Perspective on Restaurant Design and Layout
Establishments that looked to cram folk in so as to boost capacity have had to change their way of looking at their customers.
Whether that means changing layout and restaurant tables or perhaps moving to cater more to outdoor areas, restaurants need to shift their viewpoints to meet customer demands as well as potential regulatory steps that could come back in the future (in the event of potential future outbreaks).
Eating Out Is Now More of a Luxury
It may be fair to say that we might have gotten too used to eating out as a society, and the prevalence and regularity of doing so may not return any time soon. Eating out could become more of a luxury, something we do perhaps once a month and not every week, and that means that two sectors are probably better placed to cater to the new levels of demand.
High-end restaurants will probably be just fine and could find themselves securing new custom from those who save their pennies for that once-a-month activity of visiting an upscale eatery.
Then those at the other end of the spectrum, the rough and ready restaurants and cafes that are more geared to a homely experience will also settle well as they offer an option for large sections of the market.
Those restaurants that sit somewhere between these two levels could be the ones that struggle the most in a post-coronavirus ecosystem. These may need to consider more niche ways of eating into the marketplace.
Sustainable and Niche Markets
If we agree, and it’s by no means a definitive fact, that customers will be eating out less, then it’s likely a large proportion of the customer base will be very picky about where they eat, and this provides opportunities for more niche restaurants.
These might be in the form of restaurants that take a more sustainable approach to dining, perhaps those in the farm-to-table market or who cater to specific eating habits such as vegans or vegetarians.
The restaurant sector was always a dog-eat-dog, and that’s doubly the case now in 2022; as such, those looking to stay afloat or start new endeavors in the environment the industry finds itself in now must prepare accordingly.