Since its arrival back in early 2020, Coronavirus has hit economies hard around the world and plunged nations into unprecedented levels of debt. While all markets have suffered, the two sectors hit hardest have been the travel and tourism industry and hospitality.
Lockdowns and a general fear of exposure to – or spreading – the virus forced people around the world to stay home for the majority of this year. Remote-working is common, video-chat has become our primary vehicle for socializing and, with theatres and many sporting events closed or canceled, people have turned to boxsets and re-runs for their entertainment.
COVID has brought about massive changes to our lives – changing the way we work, the way we shop and, increasingly, the way we buy food from restaurants.
Ingenuity in restaurant services
During full lockdown, it soon became clear to restaurant owners that they would need to find new and inventive ways to continue serving their customers. Lockdown made leaving the house impossible but even the partial relaxing of anti-COVID measures seen in some countries lately has banned close proximity (particularly indoor proximity). With reduced footfall and tumbling profits, many of our best-known and most-loved bars and restaurants have already been forced to close.
Nonetheless, throughout the year, most take-away restaurants functioned at almost-normal levels, leading many restauranteurs to think creatively about moving from the traditional, seated service to offering delivery. Very much, ‘If the people can’t come to the restaurant, the restaurant will come to them’ type of thinking.
Restaurants like London’s Jikoni moved their menus online and started offering restaurant food delivery services, helping customers still enjoy diner-quality food while generating much-needed profit through the worst days of the virus.
The rise in home delivery services
Of course, as you would expect in any situation of change, there have been winners and losers through the enforced closure of restaurants. While the traditional hospitality trade has suffered, there has been an exponential growth in the delivery company sector with companies like Deliveroo, UberEats and Grubhub only too happy to step up to the challenge of serving food to customers.
The future of restaurants and hospitality
In the absence of a Coronavirus vaccine, it seems difficult to imagine how we could possibly make the transition back to the traditional idea of eating indoors, near others. One of the primary ways the virus infects others is through airborne transmission – making being close to other people impossible.
Meanwhile, there is considerable evidence to suggest many of the measures introduced through COVID might remain with us long after the virus has passed – while the habits and nuances we’re developing now are likely to change human behavior forever.
Restaurants aren’t alone in facing this great reset. Many experts predict retail has also changed forever with the death of the traditional high street model, replaced instead by internet shopping. It’s also expected the remote-working practices adopted through the virus will be around long after Coronavirus eventually wanes.
Meanwhile, unfortunately, many bars and restaurants have already closed – never to open again. For as long as the virus remains a potent threat, the future of hospitality will remain unclear.