A look at how the restaurant business has shifted during the pandemic
Monday, March 29, 2021
It has been a year of pandemic craziness, bringing a wave of deaths, health issues, and unprecedented economic loss. While most industries suffered heavily, restaurants perhaps got the very worst of it. In the past year, more restaurants have declared bankruptcy and faced closure than ever before. Those who persevered hope to revive their businesses, with people filtering back in as restrictions ease.
But we are far from the complete easing of precautions and a full return to normalcy.
One major area of revenue for restaurants came from office workers during lunch or happy hours. Restaurants that cater to the office crowd have gone through a harrowing year. With many of their clienteles working from home for the past year, a significant portion of their business vanished into thin air.
Main streets and downtown areas have been eerily quiet. With fewer people going to a physical workplace now and in the future, some will have to rethink their entire business strategy.
Many survived by closing for lunches and operating under reduced hours. Some have even changed gears to serve dinners or deliver full family meals. State-mandated shutdowns and subsequent losses meant staring down capacity cuts, curfews, price modifications and supplies.
Even bigger brands reported millions of dollars in losses from the business segment that heavily catered to commuting workers. Customers who usually stop in to pick up their morning coffee and late-afternoon snacks disappeared, and the lunch trade simply dried up. Restaurants that regularly catered lunches for staff meetings for offices downtown faced closure or significant declines in their drop-off catering business as well.
Many restaurants revamped their menus several times to change with changing customer needs. They added items that traveled well for carryout and delivery or shortened, streamlined, and simplified selection to execute dishes with an often-reduced kitchen crew more easily.
Now with COVID infections down and speedier vaccine administration in full swing, there is renewed hope for all restaurateurs. That, along with favorable weather, may attract more people. Those who have avoided restaurants during the pandemic year may soon start going out to eat again.
Small catering orders and individual packaging for office goers may continue. It is more labor-intensive and more expensive, so pricing will be affected. Delivery and takeout have picked up more than before as well, but they still have a long way to go to offset indoor dining losses.
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