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The Future of Restaurants in the COVID Era

Chef

Restaurants, hospitality, and other types of foodservice operations can expect a variety of changes as we move forward into 2021.

Though so much has changed already, there are additional changes we can expect as we finish out 2020. Restaurants and other types of operations can expect a continued focus on safety and the mitigation of potential Coronavirus spread, and this will result in a dependency on new and innovative foodservice equipment and supplies.

As an example, just consider what restaurants face when new products or ingredients arrive at the back door. As we know from numerous reports, the coronavirus can live on cardboard for varying amounts of time. This means removing boxes from food production areas, as well as training staff to properly disinfect after receiving and disposing of boxes, can be a critical step in preventing the spread of COVID-19. We can expect storage options like Lexan containers to be in high demand as restaurants look to shelve items and ingredients on their own versus the boxes in which they were delivered.

HOW WILL THE BACK-OF-HOUSE CHANGE?

Certainly, receiving and storage will be an important part of any back-of-house changes, as will staff training on sanitation processes, but what else can we expect in commercial kitchens as we look to 2021?

We're working through that question right now in many ways. Separation and social distancing are critical, but that can often be impossible in the tight quarters of a kitchen. Dividers and partitions can keep cooks safe, and many restaurants are even considering pods where small groups are separate from other small groups. Expeditors are also a great way to separate those who can touch food from those who cannot.

The back-of-the-house should be isolated from the front-of-the-house as much as possible. One easy way to do this is to create separate entrances for employees and customers, with important sanitation protocols posted at both doors. Gloves, aprons, masks, and other personal protective equipment are great indicators that an operation has a plan in place, and this goes a long way to increasing customer confidence.

HOW WILL THE FRONT-OF-THE-HOUSE CHANGE?

Customer confidence is a phrase worth repeating. Right now, more than anything, more than even food quality and convenience, customer confidence is probably the most important benefit a restaurant can provide.

Everyone has different levels of comfort as it pertains to COVID-19. There are people who have little to no concern about entering a restaurant, and there are others who are still having groceries delivered to their homes and will not leave their own confines. Most people are somewhere in the middle, and as they gain confidence in consumer safety efforts, they'll likely be more comfortable to enter a restaurant, even if it's just for takeout.

Today's restaurant needs multiple layers of protection, barriers and partitions to reinforce the safety of products, furniture, staff, and guests. Main considerations include minimal and spaced tables, a streamlined ordering and paying process, and then minimal contact for food delivery.

CHANGE IS INEVITABLE

By now, it's pretty obvious things will change in the restaurant industry. Even after a vaccine is in place for COVID-19, many of the precautions we're learning today will likely carry over as best practices in the future.

Some of the other things to look for and consider will be UV lights for coolers and storages areas, mobile prep areas and action stations to isolate parts of the cooking process and even bring them to the front-of-the-house, as well as the continued use of sanitation stations and safety partitions.

WHERE TO START:

Re-purposing your equipment to a COVID-19 world is possible. There are also some new solutions to inspire your efforts in meal delivery, sanitation, social distancing, and more. Need inspiration? Here's a guide on Product Solutions to keep your business moving in a COVID-19 world.