Over the past year, restaurants have been one of the main businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. What will restaurants be like in the years to come, and how long will the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic change eating out as we know it? In 2021 and beyond, with restaurants set to reopen this year, you might be wondering what you can expect from your local dining places in the future. The restaurant industry is constantly evolving to adapt to new rules and regulations, changing consumer preferences, new technologies, social pressures and more. And, COVID-19 has brought about many temporary and permanent changes that would never have been predicted before the pandemic. So, what can we expect from the restaurant industry in the future?
Growth of Takeout and Delivery Services
Over the past year, the need to close restaurants down for lockdowns and to reduce the spread of the virus led to more restaurants than ever before getting online. Within a short period of time, online delivery services like Deliveroo and UberEats were filling up with restaurants that did not previously offer such a service. Delivery services became the only way for restaurants to survive throughout the lockdowns, and we saw a huge increase in restaurants getting online for the first time.
Outdoor Dining Areas
With the UK planning a roadmap out of lockdown, outdoor dining areas are set to be some of the first places to open since being outdoors is known to be safer than mixing indoors when it comes to the risk of catching COVID-19. As a result, more and more restaurants are doing what they can to ensure that they are ready for the reopening of outdoor dining, with many ensuring that they have an outdoor dining space that is adequate for the number of customers that they can expect to want to enjoy a meal after months of lockdowns. Many restaurants are now investing in improving the outdoor dining experience with decking, comfortable furniture, and outdoor heaters for customers to enjoy. If you own a restaurant and want to make sure that it’s ready for reopening when outdoor dining is allowed again, consider composite decking boards from Ecoscape UK. Made from a combination of hardwood and WPC, they are durable, long-lasting, waterproof, and require very little maintenance.
More Social Distancing
Even after the pandemic, it is likely that we will have to practice social distancing for a long time to come. And, many people are wary about being in crowded spaces after so long in lockdown protecting themselves from the virus. As a result, restaurants that reopen after the current lockdown is lifted are expected to reduce their capacity in order to allow for more social distancing indoors. The days of packed restaurants with diners sitting tightly next to each other are long gone, and might not be back for quite some time as personal space has become more important than ever before.
The drive-thru has long been a key feature in the fast-food industry, but they have become more popular than ever before as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to get the food that you want while minimising contact with servers. Restaurants with drive-thrus have remained open throughout most of the pandemic since they provide a more efficient and safe option for serving customers. Throughout the past year, many companies around the world have taken steps to offer more drive-thrus at their locations, and it’s not just fast food – in places like LA, many upscale establishments offered a two-night drive-thru pop-up event to allow customers to dine safely.
More Contactless Orders and Payments
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more businesses are moving away from accepting cash, asking customers to only use contactless payment methods wherever possible. Restaurants have been among the many businesses that have switched to mainly contactless methods of payment, allowing customers to easily pay by swiping their contactless card or smartphone without the need to touch a keypad. More and more restaurants are also expected to make ordering contactless too, by providing customers with the option to access a menu by scanning a QR code on their smartphone rather than sharing a physical menu with other customers.
More Hygiene Concerns
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted a number of hygiene concerns for many restaurants, and it’s likely that as a result, many of the things that we are used to will eventually disappear from our favourite dining sports. Bartender’s soda guns and pre-cut fruit garnishes are likely to be phased out due to more concerns for hygiene in a post-COVID world, and the fact that customers are likely to be more concerned than ever before about sanitation and hygiene means that we are likely to see all-you-can-eat buffets, salad bars, and other self-serve options disappear from restaurants. New technologies such as apps and automated systems where customers can choose from a buffet and have it served to their table instead are likely to replace them.
New Health and Safety Measures
The past year has seen a huge range of new health and safety measures implemented in restaurants and bars around the world. And even when COVID-19 is finally under control and no longer a threat to our health, industry experts expect that many of the health, safety, and sanitation measures that were introduced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic will remain in place permanently. For example, plexiglass dividers to provide an additional safety barrier between customers and employees in restaurants might stay in place, and there is likely to be a hand sanitising station at the entrance to every bar and restaurant for the rest of time. Guests are going to expect more cleaning from their favourite restaurants now compared to before the pandemic.
The restaurant industry has been changed forever as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once lockdowns are a thing of the past, it is likely that the dining out experience that we get to enjoy will be much different to what we’re used to.