How Restaurant Business Model Changes in COVID-19?

Joydeep Das

Joydeep Das

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: August 25, 2021

When was the last time you went to your favorite restaurant or ordered your favorite dish? If you can’t exactly remember, we don’t blame you.

Since COVID-19 made its way into our lives, nothing has been the same, and that includes restaurant businesses as well. Restaurants or dining places, which were considered to be melting pots of our society are now being thought to be breeding grounds for viruses. Several governments have put tabs on restaurants and bars to encourage social distancing and reduce the spreading of infections.

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Even as we adjust ourselves to this ‘new normal’, there is panic and skepticism everywhere regarding the safety standards followed by eateries. As a result, several restaurants are facing severe losses and are forced to rethink their strategies for safety, technology, promotions, and more. Through this blog, we will be discussing how restaurant business models are changing with the onset of the pandemic and how the future of such businesses would look like.

So let’s find out how restaurants, cafes, and other joints are adapting themselves to the changing times. Here are major shifts being noticed in restaurant models since the past year:

How Restaurants’ Business Models Have Evolved Since COVID-19

1. Greater Emphasis On Food Safety & Cleanliness:

It goes without saying that restaurants now have to have an increased emphasis on their food safety, hygiene, and packaging standards. This means that right from cooking and plating to serving customers needs to be done adhering to new health protocols. Modern consumers don’t mind paying extra bucks to ensure that their health is safeguarded.

Thus, eateries are seen using a lot of modern technology to make their guests feel safe. Restaurants are aggressively trying to get their safety standardized and using reviews, labels, and testimonials to advertise themselves as ‘safe outlets.’

2. Migration to Pickup/Delivery Models:

Another significant trend that is being noticed in restaurants all over the globe is a shift to off-premise services. This could include food delivery, pick-up, or catering models that allow buyers to get their food without having to sit at restaurants. There are several reasons why this trend has caught on, which are:

  • Delivery services help eateries cater to more people.
  • There is far less chance of infections when hygienic food is delivered to customers following proper protocols.
  • Food delivery helps restaurants rebound faster from losses.
  • Restaurants can save on seating, electricity, amusement, and other costs that come with on-premise dining.
  • Shifting to an omnichannel model means being future-ready.

Many restaurants have had to redesign their menus in order to make their food more ‘transport friendly’ while others have partnered with 3rd parties for faster and safer deliveries.

3. Changes in restaurant designs:

To ensure the safety of both customer support and staff, restaurants have also altered the design and working of their establishments. Hence more and more establishments are increasing spaces between tables and breaking up large rooms into smaller sections to minimize chances of infection. There is also more access to hygiene-related products such as sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, wipes, etc., for both staff and customers.

Since cutlery, glassware, and plates have the potential to spread infection, most eateries are either doing away with them or are unpacking them in front of customers to provide assurance. Along with disposable plates and glasses, most diners have replaced salt and pepper containers with smaller packets on demand.

A large number of restaurants have also done away with menu cards and replaced them with digital menu boards or QR scanner-based menus to reduce the probability of customers’ infection through common surfaces.

4. Choosing safety over speed & efficiency:

The restaurant and hospitality industry has always looked for ways to become more efficient and improve their speed of delivery. Be it through drive-thrus, bringing all orders from the kitchen together, or having a single waiter serving customers sitting in a particular area, eateries have always tried to cut costs and push for a labor-efficient system. However, today restaurants are focusing more on their safety and hygiene standards even if they have to sacrifice service speed and efficiency.

Authorities like the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and CDC have laid out new safety protocols for restaurants in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO), some of which are mentioned below: 

  • Sanitization of trays before delivering them to customers
  • Cleaning of debit or credit cards when handed to employees and cleaning them upon return
  • Regular cleaning of POS terminals between transactions or when different staff use it
  • Placing items like condiments and napkins behind counters and requiring customers to specifically ask for them
  • Disposing of gloves and sanitizing hands after every cash or card payments

 Though the above tasks are not lengthy, they significantly increase delivery time and service speed. However, customers would not mind such minor inconveniences for the sake of their health.

5. Customer Payments:

Conventional payment models of plastic credit cards and cash are considered to be Petri dishes or bacteria and viruses. Research suggests that a $1 bill is typically in circulation for 18 months, whereas a $10 bill circulates for at least three years. The number of hands that a currency will pass through its lifetime is indeed a cause of concern to the new germ-conscious customer. Additionally, scientists have confirmed that viruses can remain active on pieces of plastic for over three days, during which an individual can make dozens of card transactions.

Several restaurant chains have introduced tap and pay services, mobile wallet payments, and EMVs for contactless payments, given the above risks. Though these technologies have existed for years, the adoption rates for them were significantly lower. However, in the present times, they are not just considered to be add-ons but have become a necessity.

In fact, organizations that aren’t adapting to these contactless technologies are being deemed unsafe and unsanitary by both customers and staff, causing them to lose business rapidly.

6. Regular health/temperature checks:

Temperature checks that were initially introduced at airports and hospitals at the beginning of 2020 quickly made their way to malls and restaurants. Face masks have also been made mandatory for staff as well as customers coming in. Modern biometric systems for eateries are also being provided capabilities to alert managers when employees clock in with high temperatures. Apart from the above protocols, the following guidelines are also being practiced at most diners:

  • Scanning of guests’ body temperature with thermal scanners; and allowing entry to only those with a temperature below 37.5°C/99.5°F
  • Security staff must be dressed in PPEs with visors, gloves, masks, and sanitizing kits.
  • Security personnel and guests at health check-up counters should maintain proper physical distancing.
  • Counters that involve human interactions must have a plexiglass divider up to the face level for reducing the chances of disease transmission through aerosols or droplets.

7. Anti-microbial screens:

Since employees in food outlets have to frequently interact with point-of-sale (POS) hardware, most such establishments are opting for anti-microbial screens and improved cleaning habits to stop the spreading of germs. Thus POS screens, thumb scanners, and KDS Expeditors are regularly sanitized or fitted with anti-microbial coatings to make restaurant environments safer.

Experts opine that COVID-19 is far from over, and the future of restaurant businesses would depend on how fast they can adapt to the changing times. Despite the panic and fear, people still want to go out and visit their favorite eateries. However, they require the necessary assurance and hygiene to ensure that they remain safe during such visits and have a good time.

8. Kitchen Safety:

Kitchens are the most important element for all restaurant businesses and must therefore maintain proper hygiene and safety standards. Many eateries are investing in training staff and bringing in additional resources for better overall hygiene, and improving the cleanliness of kitchens. Not only are most diners improving the frequency of disinfection, but dishwashers are also tested multiple times daily for ensuring that utensils are rinsed at 180°F/82°C.

Joydeep Das
The newest addition to SoftwareSuggest's writing armada, Joydeep Das has extensive experience with both technical and non-technical content. However, marketing and promotional topics have remained his true love since over a decade.

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