Restaurants need creative solutions to social distancing
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Restaurants have been hit extremely hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. As states started crawling back to reopening, a second, more infectious wave has hit most parts of the country.
Many states are dreading a second shutdown and wonder if their restaurants will survive at all this time around. America recorded a staggering number of unemployment filings in March and April, but as the lockdown eased in June, 4.8 million went back. Out of those, 30% of the jobs were from bars and restaurants.
As the pandemic evolved, eateries around the country began to think of new ways to serve their patrons. First, they started curbside pickup, registering with delivery apps to survive. Most had to overhaul their ordering system to accommodate the takeout business.
As the lockdowns eased, some set up a temporary dining spaces for an outdoor dining that were socially distanced and did not crowd sidewalks. In places like Clinton, New York, the community came up with common outdoor dining spaces in parking lots, with tables placed 6 feet apart.
All businesses in the category, such as culinary schools, wineries, restaurants, bars, and food tour companies, are getting creative in the new dining and traveling era. Those that cater to out-of-towners like distilleries and breweries face even harder challenges.
Distilleries, breweries, and wineries are trying to rethink their tasting-room experience. Outdoor seating and reservations-only rules will allow them to utilize outdoor space for a "touchless" experience.
Most are moving operations outdoors with social distancing rules, and groups are limited to between three and six people. Some are offering new tasting packages that include paired "provisions" boxes. Payment is prepaid and online, and guests are encouraged to wear masks and prepare to dine with a low-contact experience.
Tours, however, remain a problem. Distilleries want to protect their workers because the tours are generally up close and personal and may not be worth the risk. Some larger distilleries plan on reducing tour size, while others are suspending tours.
Cooking schools have taken a big hit with the lockdown. The ones that could shift to online classes, however, have seen their students’ reach expand globally.
Culinary-tour businesses are focusing on a private basis to start, with adjustments made to avoid restaurants at peak times and keep everyone outside as much as possible. But this fragmented reopening may not be worth the effort for all business owners.
In normal circumstances, food tour businesses would take groups of 10 or so people through roughly five or six establishments through a designated path, making scheduled stops. But since the shutdown, these businesses have suffered and have had to adapt in different ways.
Across the Atlantic, Bar Douro in London faced COVID-19 by diversifying. During the lockdown, it focused on developing an online wine retail division instead of liquidating.
Big names like Eataly currently rely on backup plans based on their European operations' insights on how to keep stores open with increased sanitary and safety measures along with social distancing.
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