RESTAURANTS ARE HERE TO STAY, BUT THEY WON’T LOOK THE SAME
This week I tuned into webinar Catch The Experts: Can the restaurant industry survive Covid-19? Hosted by Paul Calder of Catch On.
The panel consisted of the who’s who of the restaurant world – Peter Kreiner from Noma, Loh Lik Peng from Unlisted Collection, Mark Canlis from Canlis Restaurants, Garima Arora from Restaurant Gaa, Asim Hussain from Black Sheep Restaurants and Alan Lo from Duddells.
Each of the restaurateurs gave an insight into the situation in their city, from Bangkok to Copenhagen, Singapore to Seattle, highlighting that we are not alone. So much was said but there were a few things that stood out and I thought it would be useful to write down here and share. (All quotes are very much paraphrased as I furiously typed during the webinar!)
The world has changed, we must re-evaluate.
They all agreed that the hospitality world had changed and would not be the same post the pandemic. Garima Arora from Gaa restaurant in Bangkok said “Will fine-dining continue after this? Will people want to spend $200 on a meal? Can we go back to pre-covid? I’m not sure we can. Is there going to be a place for fine-dining restaurants?”
All we know is that there will be ‘new normals’, new standards. As an industry we have to be flexible, we must re-evaluate and be prepared with new ways to operate. Loh Lik Peng from Unlisted Collection said “The pandemic will leave deep scars but we need to be prepared and show our customers that we are ready to welcome them back.”
Mark Canlis from Canlis restaurants said “Now is the time to be creative, strengthen who you are, use this ‘pause’ time as an opportunity to explore, strategise, learn. Take care of relationships.”
Refocus and rebuild.
One thing is certain, there will be a transition period; perhaps tables will need to be 1.5-2m apart, perhaps temperatures will need to be checked before entering a restaurant.
Mark said “Restaurants will look and feel different, we’ll all be learning at the same time. But I feel hopeful that the restaurant industry will come back because there is a need for it. We will become a relationally-stronger society, and that’s a good place to rebuild and start from. Where we are now, at home, dinner around the home table, the birth place of hospitality.”
Be relevant to your city, relate and be creative.
At first we need to be focused on those who live in our own city. How can restaurants, and in particular fine-dining restaurants, be relevant to their own neighbourhood, area and city.
Peter Kreiner from Noma said “We will see a lot more local guests, guests from our own city, we need to say ‘welcome, see what we’ve created for you’. Will customers rush back or will they be scared of crowded spaces? They may be reluctant, but we need to set up dining rooms and experiences where guests will want to come and enjoy themselves."
Pre-Covid, had we lost the relational aspect of dining out? The chains and more corporate outfits had become so scripted and performance-based that the relationship between restaurant and guest had all but disappeared. “At its core it is about relating to one another, fine-dining is the most considerate way to care for someone. There may be new rules to dining out but the community will still stand. Sometimes boundaries bring out the best of our creativity” said Mark Canlis.
Restaurants are here to stay, but they won’t look the same.
On a positive note, “restaurants are here to stay. The joy and romance of going out for a meal will return. Once restrictions are lifted people will come out but the traditional dining room will not look the same. It’s too early to say what that room will look like, but it won’t look the same” said Garima.
All around the world, the restaurant industry is a community and we are bound together to try and find solutions, sharing of ideas and helping each other. Let’s re-examine our business practices and create stronger businesses that can withhold any other crisis that is thrown at us.
We don’t have all the answers, but this is a good start.
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