With the onset of super hygienic times from 2020 onwards, a massive change is seen in the hospitality industry. This change is dictated by being the most well-sanitized and clean place in the neighbourhood to eat and stay, where personal touch is limited, and social distancing is the new warmth. While it is a step in the right direction, it would be interesting to see how this is impacting customers and owners.
For the customer, the decision to have lunch is no more as easy as the closest place to eat or eat at their usual favourite restaurant. Now the dynamics are more towards how to avoid the crowd and which restaurant will be more disciplined in their sanitization routine. There is still a legitimate fear of contacting Covid from busy places and customers are moving towards the apparently safer no-contact delivery model. Once the customer however does reach the restaurant, they are immediately sanitized, the temperature is checked by masked hosts/hostesses and after they are seated menu card are given in various forms. Some restaurants are keeping QR code-based menus, some are offering SMS links, some on Whatsapp, in either case be prepared to receive marketing offers in the future as you cannot get a menu nowadays in a restaurant without sharing your phone number.
Once this initial paraphernalia is over, it is a fairly usual experience while dining out, except if you need to check the menu again, be prepared for the same SMS/Whatsapp/QR code experience again. Also, expect only the people working for the restaurant to be wearing masks, and pray that all guests are corona free, since they cannot be really eating or drinking with masks on.
For the owner, however, there are multiple roles to play, first to keep himself and all his staff corona-free. For this he has to make sure that any person on sick leave is not allowed to return to work until the doctor approves it. Making sure that not just the restaurant and kitchen are sanitized, but even the staff accommodation and incoming stores are clean too. Many restaurateurs decided to pack up their cutlery/crockery and go the disposable route, adding overheads to restructure service.
The difficulty lies at bars where 100s of glasses have to be cleaned every hour, and almost all pot washes are in the kitchen, near the food preparation area, therefore the owner must understand this and isolate the glass wash area. Every staff member has to be sensitized to the current sanitary situation and each worker has to upgrade their personal hygiene standards for the establishment to survive. In these troubled times most restaurants and hotels are running on skeleton staffing, as hospitality is barely a job that can be ‘worked from home’ which means that 1000s of qualified food and beverage professionals are unemployed, and the owners themselves are in debts to vendors and landlords due to poor sales.
Many restaurants are taking the discounting route to retain customers and sales. Even restaurants that have never previously offered discounts are partaking in it this time, since it is clearly a matter of survival of fittest in many neighbourhoods where demand is falling short and thus supply is being cut down. The funny thing to observe is that most restaurants have not shortened their menus by offering lesser items but have reduced their staffing by 30-50% in the kitchen and service to save fixed cost. This indirectly means that they are still ordering the full store requirements but in lesser quantities or finishing older stock of ingredients. It would be wiser to cut out the top 10-15 most expensive ingredients and offer ‘Table d’hote’ (set menu) to save costs rather than reduce staff presently, as customers still want good and quick service, which cannot happen at an understaffed property.
In conclusion, Coronavirus has affected the hospitality industry tremendously, but we see no reason why it will not come back to normal as more and more cities become Covidfree and the vaccines are near completion. An important point to note is that viruses do not affect food at below four degrees Celsius or higher than 66 degrees Celsius, and therefore look for hot food or chilled food, avoiding everything in between to have a safer dining experience. Also, no matter how many precautions any restaurant or hotel takes to keep you safe, the final outcome is in your own hands, literally. Keep your hands sanitized and your nose and mouth covered with masks, taking bath every evening if possible, and most importantly ‘eat nutritious food’ but do support your local street food vendor with tips.
About the Author
Amit Tejpal Amit Tejpal is a consummate hotelier having qualified as a Post-Graduate in Hospitality and has worked in more than 10 five star deluxe hotels. His company Tejpal Hospitality has successfully executed many award-winning restaurant and hotel projects around India, and he is also a qualified Six Sigma Green Belt. Amongst other accolades, he has been recognized as ‘Top 10 Hotel Consultants in India.’