Opening and managing a restaurant is never easy. According to a research conducted by Ohio University, 60% restaurants close or change ownership in the first year itself and 80% close within the first five years. This is mainly due to reasons such as constant change in consumer choices, lack of proper management, no reporting and analytics and so on. Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant industry is suffering extremely. According to the USA’s National Restaurant Association, American restaurants’ sales losses could total up to USD 240 billion by the end of the year with 8 million employees in the restaurant industry already out of work in the United States alone. However, as the great saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention”. With the onslaught of the pandemic, many restaurants across the world have taken new and interesting steps to deal with the pandemic and make eating in restaurants as safe and welcoming as possible.
One such innovative action has been by Mediamatic ETEN – a restaurant in Amsterdam, Netherlands – where they have introduced intimate greenhouse pods on the waterfront for two people to dine in with limited interaction with any outsider. The restaurant also requires their staff to wear face shields to reduce the risk of catching or spreading infection and thus, making the dining experience more desirable for the public. The practice of wearing face shields has been adopted by many other cafes such as Cafe Prueckel in Vienna, Austria and others.
Besides this, many restaurants across the world, including the restaurant Penguin Eat Shabu in Bangkok, Thailand, have started using partitions on tables so that people can eat together with minimized risk as the partitions stop any flow of droplets which is one of the main causes of the transmission of the virus. While Penguin Eat Shabu has used Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes and plastic as their partitions, many restaurants in Spain have fitted glass booth dividers for the same reasons.
Some restaurants, on the other hand, have thrived because of the fact that they make food with the use of robots. One of them is the restaurant Creator in California, USA where they were already selling burgers completely made by robots before the pandemic. However, they have not stopped at this. Creators went one step further and made ‘transfer chambers’ through which gloved and masked employees push the awaited order to the customer without any human touch. They have even provided instructions on their website on how to make these Creator Transfer Chambers.
Besides these methods to ensure safety, many restaurants across the world have also used technology in order to make the best of the situation. Among them is Kheer, a restaurant that is part of the Roseate hotels in Delhi, India where customers can use an app to scan the menu, order what they want, watch their food being prepared and pay their bills – all through one app.
Another amusing route some restaurants have taken to increase social distancing measures is to seat mannequins in many tables.However, some restaurants like the Open Hearth restaurant in the United States have taken a simpler route by using blow-up dolls from Amazon so that customers know where to sit to put as much distance as possible in between two groups.
Reinvention and Staying Afloat
Although most restaurants are focusing on increasing their safety measures in order to seem more desirable, many restaurants, organizations and people have also focused on supporting small businesses through crowd-sourcing so that the numerous small restaurants don’t have to shut down and so that owners and employees are helped out in these hard times.
One such website that is helping out small businesses is GoodHang which was created so that people can virtually and safely connect with their family and friends while helping out certain restaurants by donating or by buying gift coupons which they can gift or use in the future.
Additionally, restaurants have also reinvented themselves in order to stay afloat. With so many people at home with time on their hands, many restaurants have started delivering make-at-home meal kits which consist of all the ingredients and the recipe so that customers can make their favourite meals at home by themselves which is a fun activity in itself. Two such restaurants are high-end Toronto restaurant Oretta which produces pizza and pasta kits to make at home and Phodega restaurant in Chicago where you can buy make-at-home Pho kits.
Lessons for Nepal
With an estimated 2500 standard restaurants in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Sauraha alone, the restaurant industry in Nepal is enormous and gives jobs to thousands of people. And with the onslaught of COVID 19, just like all restaurants around the world, Nepali restaurants are also facing the brunt of one of the worst crises of this generation. Many Nepali restaurants have indeed started delivery services through Foodmandu and similar apps, started selling frozen items and even helping the community by giving free food to the poor like Dalle has done.
However, this is not enough. With the easing of the lockdown, many restaurants and cafes have opened up to even including on-property dining without any safety measures. Moreover, despite the fact that so many people have gotten used to home food and are planning to cut down on spending on restaurants due to the crunch in disposable income, most Nepali restaurants have not done much to tackle the issue. Just like the various restaurants around the world, Nepali restaurants must also reinvent themselves. This includes introducing new deals, plans and coupons like some restaurants like Captain Egg Nepal, Himalayan Java and so on . What all restaurants must do now is that they must learn from the various international practices, ensure safety measures and must reinvent because the restaurant industry is going to remain very different from what has been the normal for many years to come.
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