The onset of corona virus in March 2020 in India has brought upon many changes in people’s lifestyles. The way we dress, eat, walk and do our activities when outside is completely different from how it was pre-COVID.
People have mostly been avoiding going out, partying, eating out. And even after public places and restaurants slowly opened up, following precautions like maintaining social distancing, wearing masks, minimizing touch, etc. have become consequential.
Restaurants especially have lost a lot of business during the initial months when lockdowns were happening on and off. Once the lockdowns were stopped and restrictions on public dining and eating out lifted gradually, restaurant owners lost no time in establishing the new post-COVID safety rules for their employees to follow strictly. Masks were made compulsory for waiters, chefs and other staff; and hand sanitizers at the entrances of every place; social distancing became the norm, and even looking at food menus and payments have become mostly digital.
Restaurants started to display the “COVID safe” signs on their doors and online portals for people to know that theirs is a restaurant that is safe to dine in, as rules are being followed.
While existing restaurants have been scrambling to expand their space and practice the precautions to the fullest to gain back their lost profits during the lockdown, new restaurants have also started to open – that have a new structure, style and features that are appropriate for the COVID era
In the long run, in order to protect their business restaurants will have to be adaptable, with seating plans that can accommodate maximum customers safely and be able to provide a great experience in every format. For this reason, the hospitality industry is continuing to think about flexibility and how to improve outdoor dining, and how this new normal will be sustainable and So, based on what all is known about COVID-19, it is expected that more and more restaurants, both old and new, will be seen adapting all the updated safety measures and redefining their spaces and designs.
While some restaurants have been able to afford a complete re-designing of their spaces, some smaller restaurants have been taking a different, less-expensive route to ensure safety and be able to run their business. This includes the use of stuffed toys or mannequins placed on some chairs and tables and spaces to occupy them and ensure customers don’t sit too close together. And some restaurants have installed plexiglass barriers between tables to create a barrier between different groups of people dining at different tables.
With the need to constantly disinfect surfaces, many restaurants are even getting rid of excess tabletop decor such as candles, lamps, flowers and vases, that would need to be cleaned between sittings. Even menu cards are done away with by many of these restaurants, and they have adapted a new contactless method to share their menu. This method features QR codes that customers can point at and scan with their mobile or any smart device’s camera, after which they will be taken to an online digital menu where they can view the menu card virtually and browse options. In many of these restaurants, these contactless menus are being kept as table-top postcards.
Architects and designers are also constantly working to create much needed design changes in people’s favourite eating spaces – creating larger spaces, expanding to outdoors and terraces, and avoiding completely closed spaces as much as possible.
The prediction is that these design changes will be reflected in all restaurants that will be opened in the near future, because if they don’t, customers will mostly avoid such restaurants, and their business can suffer losses, and employees themselves may be exposed to harm. Restaurant owners surely don’t want that!