On March 18th, the Government of BC announced their intent to provide vaccines to every resident of BC by the end of this year. With that timeline in mind, it is cautiously safe to say that we are nearing the end of the pandemic or at least control of it. The past fourteen months have been challenging for everyone – especially those in the food and beverage industry. Over the past year, the food and beverage industry has developed innovative strategies and practices that have allowed them to sustain their business. In fact, many of these new practices will continue post-pandemic to ensure a safer environment for restaurant staff and guests and to rebuild our confidence in our dining practices prior to the pandemic.
Embracing and Adapting to the “New Normal”
Individuals looking to order food from a restaurant or fast-food establishment are now given multiple options of how they can order and receive their meal. They can customize their meal just as they would during a dine-in experience and can even select a specific time as to when they would like to pick up or have their meal delivered. Although this technology is not new, it has become the go-to method of eating out during this pandemic. Many customers are looking for a contactless dining experience, and the food and beverage industry has successfully adapted to suit this demand. A few restaurants have even implemented walk-up windows that eliminate the need to enter an indoor environment to order. The most popular adaptation born from the pandemic is the parklet patios, which have given many restaurants a fighting chance by allowing outdoor seating. These are just some of the methods that the food and beverage industry has used to survive and embrace the impacts of COVID19. It seems that many of these services and practices will carry on long-term to allow flexibility and comfort for all customers.
Honesty & Communication is Key
Many successful food and beverage businesses have created a clear and honest dialog with their guests about their safety and how they are implementing new procedures to improve the cleanliness and contact-free experience within their establishment. Ideally, this information and compassion will also align with the brand guidelines of the business and be carried through all aspects of the business. The tone and voice used to communicate new procedures is a key element of genuine brand authenticity. Businesses are also implementing contact tracing methodologies to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Details like this truly matter to guests, as it reflects the investment being made in pursuit of taking care of their safety and needs. Nurturing this trust develops a deeper emotional connection between a business and their guests, which is very valuable during such a physically distanced time.
The COVID19 pandemic has taught us many valuable lessons, but one of the most significant is the importance of being flexible – in all realms of life. When is comes to the food and beverage industry, a flexible design is essential for following COVID19 protocols. Eateries with adaptable interior layouts have definitely managed better than others during this time. Adaptive elements such as furniture, partitions, signage, queue management, etc. have allowed operators to reconfigure their space accordingly while adhering to health guidelines and protocols. Though health restrictions can change overnight, keeping the space pleasant and organized is key. Clear brand-focused signage can also enhance the overall experience and mitigate the focus from the restrictions.
Products that are easy to clean will be thoughtfully considered more than ever. Nonporous materials like porcelain, quartz, granite, Corian, or laminate countertops could become more popular. The importance of clean air has also become a huge element of design consideration. Low-emitting materials will take precedence over off-gas materials, and the efficiency of air supply systems will be increased to keep up with the higher expectations and standards of air quality.
Change is the Only Constant…
Sir Norman Foster once quoted, ‘Change is the only constant’, and the pandemic has certainly reaffirmed that. During these unprecedented times, we have learned to consistently adapt to new challenges. While COVID19 has brought an abundance of changes, many of these changes are to improve the experience and confidence for both business owners and customers in the long-term.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused a great deal of economic loss to many industries but in particular to this one. Many restaurants and other food and beverage establishments have been forced to close – either temporarily or permanently. However, continued support from our communities, and the development of new ways to connect and support one’s local restaurants and eateries is ultimately the biggest accomplishment. The fact remains that the pandemic has significantly changed our way of living, and although we are not going back to “normal” we are moving forward to a new normal in the best way possible.
Featured Photo by: Christine Pienaar Photography