Expectations from the Restaurants During the Pandemic and Beyond

Author: Jaasjyot Surri, CEO and Co-Founder, SJI Hospitality and Foods Private Limited

Pandemic, social distancing and the novel coronavirus are only three phrases that seem to be permanently etched into our dictionary in current times. The on-going health calamity has impacted the Indian restaurant domain just like nearly any other sphere. The commencement of the Covid-19 pandemic has provoked a sea alteration in the way restaurants are being operated now and even in the post-pandemic phase that could change everything from how guest’s check-in to how the food is being served. Further, then upsetting fiscal impact, the pandemic has also managed to take a toll on our social and personal health. The once-upon-a-time tradition of breaking bread with one another which has been a long-standing communal activity will witness a noticeable change now. The stay-at-home orders sanctioned to control the transmission of the virus have forbidden this once pulsating and collective event from taking place outside the confines of our homes.

Although the joy that comes from dining together is immeasurable, it would be safe to undertake that consumers would expect safety and sanitation to be a rudimentary requirement from the restaurants going forward. If the global crisis is a true catalyst of change, then the restaurateurs can expect come sea-change bearings on the consumer behaviour patterns and expectations. The functioning of the restaurant industry coming back to normalcy after a temporary halt is an encouraging sign and an eagerly expected milestone by the entire industry. Although the hospitality domain gradually starts its recovery from COVID-19 and braces to commence its re-negotiation of expectations it has been compelled to deal with the demanding consumers who are now more anxious with regards to their health, safety measures, restaurant cleanliness and overall quality as compared to pricing.

We will sooner or later get back to old habits, but when, where, and how we will be able to feast out is going to modify. Below mentioned are a couple of expectations on how hospitality operators can retort to and effectively modify their business modules to stay buoyant both during and beyond the pandemic:

Key modifications in the restaurant layout: In the post COVID world, the concept of in-room dining will witness a noteworthy surge, where restaurants must take efforts to keep it more contactless. With social distancing that is bound to stay with us for quite some time, the concept of mini-bar might become extinct. For restaurants that serve buffets, there must be more live stations, smaller single-serve portions, and restaurant staff serving the guests behind the counters. There are numerous touch-points in a restaurant, hence the overall emphasis will be on condensing the common touch-points as much as possible and disinfecting the remaining ones. The concept of intimate dining will modify. In the forthcoming years, the future, there no longer will be sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with other patrons. It is important to condense the seat count in bars and dining rooms to abide by physical distancing norms. 

Validate your decontamination process: Restaurants are now moving from being ‘appealingly clean’ to ‘clinically clean’. Customers will need to be persuaded about the sanitation of your location. As the uppermost precedence is moved to generate awareness about hygiene, restaurants must ensure a new normal by safeguarding thermal check-ups, utilization of sanitizers and PPE kits by the restaurant staff. Linens and furnishings tend to play a decisive role in defining a restaurant’s décor. Considering the need-of-the-hour, they must ensure to properly sanitize the cushion upholstery and mattresses. Restaurants must consider efficiently spacing the tables to enable lesser PAX per sq. ft. Have the employee temperature checks done on an everyday basis that can be recorded and exhibited at the entrance and on the virtual media? Restaurants can also uphold a log that can be noticeable to the customers about when the facility was sanitized.

Old-style back-of-house functions can move forward: The open kitchen trend will become more predominant, as more diners express a longing to witness their food being made. Hence restaurants must encourage this concept to gain back customer trust.

Immunity-packed and conscious menus: The last three months have witnessed a drastic transformation in our access to and food obtainability coupled with what and where we consume. At the same time during this unanticipated global crisis, personal and family health has now become a priority. The lockdown has contributed to people now preferring to relish on the joys of immunity-boosting home-cooked foods, thus marking the start of a wholesome relationship with food. This is a clear indication that the diners who would initially prefer indulging in unhealthy eating at restaurants, will now prefer switching onto a healthy menu focussing more on organic edibles in the pursuit of boosting their immunity levels. Hence restaurants need to append their existing menus by adding more healthy and local ingredients like Haldi, ajwain, lemongrass, kokum, cinnamon and wheatgrass.

Emphasize on local produce: Post COVID 19 witnesses a permanent closure, the focus will be more on fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits, organic produce and anti-oxidant ingredients will also have a chief role to play. Imported ingredients will be substituted by local ones. Basic lost ingredients from the Ayurveda like ginger, curcumin, or raw fresh turmeric, basil and citrus fruits will certainly be a major part of our day-to-day diet. Post the market does convalesce, pay cuts across all domains will further lead to low paying capacity.

Transportation and cargo will cost more leading to lesser imports and an increase in the local produce-driven culinary industry. The current times have lent a great opportunity to explore with our age-old local produce to reap a multitude of health benefits from them.

The Covid-19 crisis is turning out to be a highly significant event for the domain of hospitality. Although most turbulences impacted the consumer side of the business, the present pandemic is bound to leave a profound impact on the industry’s operational side too.

The Covid-19 upheaval will pass, just like ones that came before it, and the hospitality industry in India will serve its patrons, just the way it has been doing from long-established periods.

About the Author

Jaasjyot Surri, CEO & Co-Founder, SJI Hospitality and Food Private Limited

Jaasjyot Surri is the CEO and Co-Founder of SJI Hospitality and Foods Private Limited. A third-generation entrepreneur and also a visionary, Jaasjyot co-founded SJI Hospitality and Food Private Limited along with his chef brother Ishijyot Singh Surri with an aim to carve a rich legacy in the Indian F&B industry. He truly believes the key to shining out in the ever-growing F&B sector is to offer exclusivity, quality service and a one-of-a-kind culinary experience to the patrons.

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