The Impact of Covid-19 on the Restaurant Industry Moving Forward

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As the world goes through the systemic and economic shutdown, the restaurant industry is swallowing the bitter pill of the "new normal" and seeking better ways to do business amid the pandemic.

Restaurants that understand they're emerging into a different operational landscape will be at an advantage to rebound pretty quickly and thrive in the post-COVID world.

But what are the impacts—and how do these businesses adjust going forward?

Let me feed you with a statistic—even in the best of times, about 60 percent of restaurants fail within their first year, 80 percent do so in their first five years.

These colossal failures are a result of changing consumer preferences, a workforce with a high turnover rate, and thin margins among several others. Add these to the sudden lack of customers due to COVID-19, and the industry may be heading for the rocks.

These are only a few of what's to come. Let's look at some areas that will be directly impacted by COVID-19.

Payment Solutions

One of the most obvious impacts will occur in the world of payment solutions. What we know is that credit cards and cash are potential vectors for the virus. The hand-to-hand transfer of money during their lifetime is a definite concern for germ-conscious consumers—who are better informed after emergence of COVID-19.

This could potentially open the door for new technologies to be implemented—contactless, EMV, mobile wallets, etc. In each of these, there is no person-person transfer, reducing the chances of germ transmission.

Fine Dining & Table Service Menus

It's no news that germs can exist on plastic surfaces for days. For the newly educated customers, they will be concerned about being handed a menu, which may have been cycled so many times.

A restaurant may resort to the option of guest pulling up the menu on their own devices, including taking advantage of digital menu board technology when necessary. It may mean new hardware developed, which will enable the server to bring forth a sizeable digital menu.

Checklists & Alerting

Employees are entitled to work in a safe environment. Before now, we have to look at that from the angle of the "wet floor"and "hot stove" perspective and not one that is free from germ surfaces and the virus from other employees.

Even with many operators developing automated checklist functionality, they will have to re-work the actual task. This will ensure that new cleanliness and monitoring guidelines are on the list of items to be carried out.

Critical sanitation items will have to be added to the inventory order like sanitary hand wipes, latex gloves, hand sanitizer, etc. In a situation where these tasks are left uncompleted periodically, then the manager's attention will be called to it in ensuring that the work is completed.

Daily Health Checks (Temperature)

Employers may be forced to do a quick check for their employees when they return to work. Similar to what the hospitals are doing today, employers will have to provide masks for employees and check their temperatures as they clock in. It will be a great advantage for employers if timeclocks can take temperature using some biometric means as part of the process. It may also have the ability to alert the manager when someone clocks in with a high temperature.

No one knows exactly what comes next, but our collective minds are left vulnerable to wild speculations and understandable fear. One thing is for sure, though, the restaurant industry has had to reinvent itself over the years and perhaps that time is upon us again. Through this grim reality we're living in, one can't help but feel a hint of excitement and anticipation for the next chapter in this vibrant and vital industry.

Will local mom & pops restaurants survive the 50 percent capacity they're now forced to operate under? Will chain restaurants be the only eateries left standing? What about fine-dining establishment, what's their future like?There are a myriad of questions to pose. Unfortunately, answers will trickle in as time ticks away slowly and the dust finally settles.

There's one section, however, that has been growing like wildfire, driven by technology – and that is the food delivery and takeout industry. That begs the question: Is it just a stand-in until the COVID-19 situation is fully under control  and restaurants can go back to operating like they did before? Or is it a glimpse into the future of what the dining experience will be like from now on?

The Jury is still out… But watch this space!

The restaurant industry will have to contend with the "new normal" and leverage different possibilities to get back on its feet. For that to happen, there could be undesirable consequences that will rear their ugly heads, making life more uncomfortable for the common man.