Life, as we know it, is unlikely to be the same post-COVID 19 given the social distancing and safety measures that organisations will have to take to safeguard their employees and customers.
In the UAE’s restaurant sector, this is even more apparent as their businesses’ existence is dependent on (largely direct interactions with) consumers. With many consumers cooped up at home and reluctant to engage in social activities even as restrictions are easing, food operators need to rethink their approach to remain in business.
With the end of COVID 19 starting to appear on the radar, rethinking dining is of paramount importance.
Below, I outline a few concepts that could appeal and enhance the foodservice offering:
- Contactless Dining
This concept involves automating aspects of the dining experience, including check-in’s, seating allocation, food ordering and payment, limiting contact with staff while still enjoying the idea of eating out.
This strategy will position restaurants as safety conscious, compliant with the law and client concerns, by maintaining social distancing and the highest of hygiene standards.
Menus via QR codes, online payment…the whole experience would be accessed & managed through your smartphone. This dining experience may not entirely remove the need for waiters (mostly involved in serving) but reduces the chances of spreading any virus via contact.
Consumers will most likely favour restaurants able to maintain some level of social distancing and contactless service, for the medium term at least.
- Restaurant Redesign
Social distancing is here to stay for the foreseeable future, so restaurants need to program the new realities into their design. Organising a restaurant space such that there is considerable distance between seated customers is essential and, in most cases now, required by law. Although this would mean losing seating capacity as it’s hard to see diners, in the current climate, wanting to return to a cosier layout. Redesigning the space layout will be good for business attraction, even though operating with reduced capacity will impact the bottom line in a big way.
Some restaurants in Amsterdam, for example, are testing out a pod concept. This idea is a forward-thinking experiment, if appropriately implemented, will create a new dining experience.
- Home catering concept
Even after lockdown ends, dining-out is unlikely to remain the same in the medium term. Some consumers will prefer to have social gatherings in their homes while enjoying meals from their favourite restaurants; hence, creating an opportunity for home catering.
This concept goes beyond just food delivery to creating a dining experience. Chefs and bartenders can interact with consumers to incorporate some to their signature recipes. Masti, a UAE Indian fusion restaurant, has successfully implemented this strategy to engage their customers. Masti now delivers food and mixers to homes with bartenders only a call away to guide consumers with their mixology experience.
The future of dining will change, and being able to adapt will set any restaurant apart from the others.