COVID-19 has changed the world drastically in 2020. Stay-at-home orders have saved lives, but many businesses have closed down and millions of jobs have been lost. It will take a long time before the world gets back to normal, even once the pandemic is over.
The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit. People can no longer dine in, and even adapting to deliveries has not been able to save every establishment. The restaurants that have been able to reopen for in-person seating have had to make some serious changes.
These changes are focused on optimizing space and hygiene, so that people can eat as safely as possible. But will these restaurant design tricks continue on after the pandemic?
Let’s take a quick look at what has changed.
Many restaurants have, in the past, relied on very specific seating options. They had a fixed amount of tables and chairs, all of which were arranged in a certain way every single day. Some went so far as to fix furniture to the ground.
COVID-19 has changed that. When restaurants open up for customers now, they have to be prepared to spread people out. If they have more space available, they need to use it, even if that means outdoor seating on some of the colder days.
Restaurants have embraced options like commercial bar stools to optimize space. They use whatever options they have to make individual seating spaces more efficient, so that they can seat a number of people without putting anyone in danger.
The days of reusable plastic menus seem to have passed. After all, there is no better way to spread germs than to give the same grubby menu to one person after the next. More restaurants than ever are embracing disposable paper menus. In an ideal world, reusability is crucial, but today it is just another means of passing on infection.
One of the most basic ways of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in restaurants is by limiting the number of patrons at any one time. This is not ideal in terms of profitability but it could also be an alternative means of operating. Many high end restaurants restrict the number of patrons even during normal times, as part of a business model that values exclusivity. It might mean fewer people right now, but could also mean a more consistent stream of patrons who are willing to spend more.
So, will these trends continue after COVID-19?
Over the past six months, the new normal has been spoken of over and over again. It is possible that people will be more aware in general of hygiene issues and the potential for viruses to spread. Restaurants will do well to continue using these tricks for the foreseeable future.
However, as we have seen from the failed attempts to reopen states earlier this year, many people are very quick to pretend nothing happened and dive right back into old habits. The new normal might not last long.
For now, it is a good idea to plan for the future under the assumption that COVID awareness is here to stay. That might change fairly quickly, but the longer the crisis continues, the more second-nature new habits become.