The restaurant industry is experiencing one of its greatest challenges yet. We’ve created this space with the purpose of sharing from our experience of working with more than 200 restaurants. We desire that Martin’s Corner be a tool to spread hope and practical steps for the benefit of other businesses.
COVID-19 has dealt one of the biggest blows in history to the restaurant industry and businesses have been scrambling to understand what the future of the market will look like. From farmers, truckers, and manufacturers to distributors and restaurants – the entire food chain supply has felt the effects. But it’s not all bad news.
The saying “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” is particularly applicable in this situation. In response to the crisis, the industry has seen an explosion in innovation and creativity as restaurants have pulled out all the stops to stay afloat and weather this storm.
So how will the industry bounce back in the long term? Here’s our prediction.
Restaurants are an integral part of culture
First we must look at the role restaurants play not just in the economy but in culture as well. According to head chef Dan Barber at two-Michelin star restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the importance of restaurants goes beyond more than just numbers. “Restaurants have a cultural imprint on what it means to be alive. Restaurants are this place of connection and community and excitement and decadence that is very powerful.”
With that said, the restaurant industry cannot just disappear. It’s a part of our cultural fabric. Will it look different? Most definitely. But it will survive.
As much as to-go orders and take out menus have gained in popularity and technology is helping keep businesses afloat, there’s no denying that the great challenge ahead is recovering what restaurants do best – bringing people together over food.
The importance of technology in moving forward
One of the most important factors moving forward will be implementing strategies to make the customer feel safe. Without a doubt, an essential piece of this puzzle is technology.
Apart from systematic hygiene practices, taking customers’ temperatures, and the use of personal protective equipment for staff, digital tools will be what gives diners the extra confidence they need to return.
Mobile applications for deliveries and online ordering systems will continue to grow in popularity with take out culture still being the easiest and safest way for consumers to get access to their favorite dishes.
But technology will also need to become a part of the dining experience.Tablets on every table, digital menus and mobile payment options will become the new norm.
Transparency through the use of technology will also be key. Customers will want to be able to see the path their food takes to get to them. Farm to fork traceability (the ability for consumers to track where their food comes from) will grow in popularity as food safety remains a number one priority.
Even social media will play a bigger role in the industry moving forward. Instagram and Facebook were essential for restaurants maintaining contact with their customers during quarantine and will only grow in importance looking ahead.
The return to the regular dining experience will be slow but in the meantime, it will be important for restaurants to continue finding points of connection with customers through social media: offering behind the scenes looks into their kitchens, engaging in conversations with followers and advertising giveaways and to-go specials.
Robert Irvine, the star of Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible, has been developing a system that he says will be essential for restaurants to follow in order to make it out of this crisis.
“We’ve got to put systems into these places and restaurants that hold the owners or the manager, or both, accountable for their actions and their employees. We need to bring back consumer confidence for the guests, but also the employees that work there. They’re humans too. If they don’t feel confident, they’re not coming to work.”
It all boils down to consumer confidence.
The solution means coming together
This is uncharted territory for all of us in the restaurant industry. But apart from technology and increased hygiene, one thing will be crucial in finding future success.
We as an industry will need to work together – everyone in the supply chain, from farmers to food distributors to restaurants. Now is not the time for competition. It’s time for sharing ideas, successes and failures.
Success will be measured not by one restaurant that does it right but by an entire industry coming together and rebuilding the cultural fabric of dining together.
The way we will achieve consumer confidence is if customers regain trust in the industry as a whole. If they see us working together to provide safe environments and developing best practices.
In our next Martin’s Corner, we’ll take a closer look at what one restaurant is doing to win back its customers. So stay posted!
This is just our opinion. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how you think the industry will change in the aftermath of COVID-19!