I’ve been thinking about how the restaurant scene will change once social distancing measures will be eased. What I am considering is the early stage when businesses start to open back up but the pandemic may not truly be over (ie, case count not equal to zero). These are just my opinions but feel free to let me know your thoughts too in the comments below.
1. Dining in will be different
As restaurants begin to open back up, dining rooms may need to be redesigned so support some type of social distancing. That is, they may be required to have more spaces in between tables at least in the beginning. I think it will be a long time before we dine in a restaurant packed full of people.
Furthermore, after weeks (or months) of not sitting down in a restaurant, customers might not be quick to jump back to dining in versus getting takeout or delivery.
2. Restaurants with large dining spaces may not survive and will need to adapt
Without the regular volume of dine-in customers as mentioned in point #1, restaurants with large dining spaces may not be able to survive unless they change their business model.
Even if they focus on takeout or delivery, it may be hard to make up the loss of sales per square footage of space enough to just pay for the rent especially in an expensive city like Vancouver.
3. Dining out could become more expensive
There have been a lot of talk about how the pandemic has caused a rise in food costs due to various factors like disruptions in supply chain and distribution systems, higher costs of labour, and higher operation costs (due to increased need for sanitization and so forth).
These costs would be passed on to the customer which would make dining out become more expensive.
4. Fine dining could be less popular
The pandemic has caused economic uncertainty and job losses and these will drive people to reconsider their spending patterns and save more. As a result, fine dining restaurants may see a weaker demand as consumers spend more conservatively.
5. Emergence of small businesses that operate without a brick and mortar location
In the current climate, eateries that operate out of commissary kitchens are still surviving and serving customers because their business model does not involve the high costs of a brick and mortar location.
I think there will be more of these types of businesses coming up and offering take-out, delivery of their goods which would fall in line with consumer “appetites” so to speak for at-home dining.
6. Take-out food could get better and needs to be priced reasonably
Restaurants that will survive after social distancing eases should have better take-out options. That could mean offering takeout packages, offering food that can be reheated easily and still tastes good, and so forth.
The food should also be ideally priced and portions need to be reasonable as consumer appetite for spending is likely to be dampened in the beginning.
One good example is the Family Package which I ordered from Torafuku recently. I got to enjoy top notch, restaurant quality food at a reasonable price with great portions. A lot of the food came in pre-packaged, sealed bags which made reheating easy.
That being said all above, I believe we’ll get back to where we were someday…but not right away. Until then, there are many great, local businesses to discover and enjoy takeaway food until we get back to “normal.” But then again, perhaps we should consider what might be a new norm in the future and adapt to it the best way we can.