Eating in, out or takeaway?
The pandemic has set the alarm bells ringing not just for social distancing and good hygiene, but especially with the catering industry. What is almost certainly on the cards is for food and supply chain quality to come under the microscope.
A good many restaurants and chains have emphasised the importance of showing transparency in their supply chains and the traceability of products from the farm to your plate. The technology for doing this is already out there, but the time and cost involved has put off all but a few potential purchasers.
The aim is to provide a common method and language for tracking every product, from its starting point to the warehouse, to the retailer and eventually to the restaurant.
The use of barcodes to trace the exact path of a product can give precise details of the product’s origin, sometimes down to an individual field. This can help greatly in finding the origin of foodborne disease outbreaks. The technology, though, needs food service operators and retailers to go the final mile to comply with the standards and configure their systems to manage the code numbers.
Hygiene takes priority
Food security and hygiene requirements mean that restaurants will need to clearly demonstrate the efforts they have made to keep the public safe. They’ll have to come up with solutions for every concern raised to avoid being stigmatised as places where product quality and a clean, healthy environment are not being taken seriously enough.
Previously, the only way the public found out that restaurants were breaching food safety codes was when they had to close down for repeated offences. What we can see coming in the near future, however, is a numerical score to be displayed on the window to show how good a restaurant is at complying with hygiene and food safety requirements compared to other restaurants.
Many restaurants during the pandemic have taken to offering a takeaway service, often with delivery included and it’s important, even vital for them to think up an omni-channel sales strategy for their operations.
This can mean changing the menu around to offer dishes that can easily be transported, and this includes special packaging and an internal, external or hybrid delivery strategy. While it’s sure that some customers will celebrate the end of Covid-19 and go on an eating-out spree, a lot of others will take the prudent approach and bide their time, but a third group will need much longer before they can be persuaded back into a restaurant.
Safety before efficiency
The industry’s main priority used to be efficiency, with rapid service, well-trained staff, kitchen throughput and, for some, drive-throughs.
What is liable to happen now, is a switch to food safety and hygiene, even if this means a slowdown in service. We don’t expect too many customers to start moaning at this, in fact we reckon that for most people going to restaurants, it will be a welcome step forward.
While we expect people to return to restaurants once the pandemic is finished, this certainly doesn’t mean that there will be a rush to fill them, at least not at the beginning. Restaurants with table service need to find out the best way to manage the inevitable customer objections. Here are a few suggestions:
– Increasing the space between tables and/or splitting larger rooms up into smaller sections
– Putting an alcohol-based hand sanitiser or wipes on each table
– Cutlery, glassware and plates cleaned at the table (or brought to the table in their wrapping) for customer peace of mind
– Removing salt and-pepper canisters and replacing them by packets available on request
– Buffet service for salads, for example, should be replaced by employee service
– Plate covers, to be removed at the table
– Tableside payment so credit cards don’t need to be given to employees
– Offering electronic receipts, instead of paper ones
– Digital or tablet-based menus with antimicrobial screens, instead of paper menus
The post pandemic restaurant scene will be a completely different one for both customers and employees. We need to start planning for it right now and be ready to reply to customer objections. The better we meet their needs, the sooner we’ll get back to normality and profitability.