Restaurants during covid-19: Innovations and Adaptations

We are now in the bang middle of the pandemic. While the disease rages, people and businesses are running out of patience and runway – lockdowns cannot hold for extended periods.

While a lot has been written about the sanitization and other practices that restaurants are adapting to, I wanted to touch upon what is actually happening on the ground and the innovations that are leading the way for this resilient industry. Not every measure is suitable for every format of restaurant, however I hope that the list below will tickle your brains and get you thinking on new ways to adapt to the crisis.

Table placements and Social Distancing:

Restaurants around the world are coming up with new ways to enforce social distancing within their premises.

Restaurant all across the globe are using mannequins and blow-up dolls to fill empty tables and get rid of the deserted/dystopian feel.

  1. Cafe Central Coffeehouse in Vienna, Austria
  2. Mannequins in 1940s-era clothing occupy tables at The Inn – a 3 Michellin Star restaurant in Washington, Virginia
  3. Blow-up dolls in cheerleader costumers at Cheers in Tokyo

New table arrangements and table partitions are also being introduced to manage social distancing

Mediamatic Eten, a restaurant in Netherlands is using small greenhouses for seating their diners. The project called Serres Separees sold out for 2 months as soon as bookings opened.

At Penguin Eat Shabu hotpot restaurant in Bangkok, tables are divided using plumbing pipes and polythene plastic to separate diners. This proves to be a cost-effective way to enforce social distancing in space-constrained environments.

Meal Kits, At-home Experiences and Online Classes

With traditional dining-in revenues severely impacted, restaurants also need alternate channels to make up for their lost revenue. High-end restaurants which have generally shied away from deliveries because most fine-dine items don’t travel well, have turned to DIY kits and at-home experiences to keep their patrons hooked on to their food.

The menu, even for delivery, needs to be a balance between comfort and excitement. But we have to keep logistics in mind. We can’t pack certain dishes that won’t travel well. Take, for instance, raw fish. This is not the time to experiment with sending ceviche for delivery

Sameer Seth, co-founder, Hunger Inc (O’Pedro, Bombay Canteen and Bombay Sweet Shop)

A lot of upscale restaurants are using great packaging combined with customization requests to placate their guests. Take for instance Alinea (Michellin 3 star restaurants in Chicago, birthplace of molecular gastronomy) which serves wine-pairings to go with their take-out menu. The box includes a note on the pairings as well as how to retouch each component at home so that they can closely mimic the in-restaurant dining experience

A Goan Poee making workshop hosted by O Pedro’s chef Hussain Shahzad over Zoom

In India as well, @home experience are becoming popular. Take for instance the 4-course meal offered by Zorawar Kalra’s Massiver Restaurants made by their chefs in the comfort of the customer’s home including a cocktail customized to the customer’s choice.

We will recreate Masala Library at your home – including sending servers, chefs and food

Zorawar Kalra, Massive Restaurants (Farzi Cafe, PaPaYa)

Even 5-star hotels have jumped on the delivery bandwagon with Taj’s “Hospitality@Home” and Marriott international’s “Marriott on Wheels” initiatives. With leaisure travel severely impacted, everyone using food delivery as a sustenance channel.

Meal kits are also gaining popularity with people’s reluctance to eat food cooked out of sight. To cater to this crowd, a lot of restaurants have introduced meal kits so that people can enjoy home cooked food with fresh ingredients delivered. Brands like Little Italy have introduced Pizza and Pasta kits are are selling upwards of 200 kits a month, so much so that it has led them to create a separate vertical named Acasa to cater to this segment.

In-vehicle Dining

Several restaurants around the world have resorted to serving customers in their own vehicles. This retro-trend is gaining popularity again as social distancing norms and fear cause people to avoid dining in indoor spaces with strangers.

Sonic, an American fast food chain is known for it’s drive-in restaurants. This photo from the 1980’s shows a server on rollerskates serving food to be consumed in the car.

A large parking lot allows you to cater to several vehicles at a time. Azeez Organic in Kochi has leveraged their large parking space to serve diners in the comfort of their own cars.

However, it’s not just about space. The type of food and service also needs to be considered when opting for in-vehicle dining. Bowl meals and fast-food lend themselves well to drive-ins, unlike a Thali meal with several elements. Restaurants can also go the extra step of making custom holders for their bowls and meals which can be placed on a customer’s lap, making it easy for customers to sit in their cars and consume their meals.

With people yearning to get fresh air, restaurants can also provide additional incentives such as live music or movie screenings to draw a crowd.

A drive-in movie theater in Dubai. Restaurants can benefit from such tie-ups to get access to a captive audience

Technology to the rescue

As restaurants reopen, one thing is for certain – Technology is going to play an even larger role in the food service industry. Two main trends are emerging, contactless dining and robot-driven service. Both these will require a strong technology partner to enable you to adapt to new changes in market dynamics. With Petpooja’s PoS and Restaurant Management Platform, you can focus on the food and service while we take care of the technology you will need to manage and grow your business.

Contactless dining is the more near term adaptation that will take place with benefits for both consumers and restaurants. Contactless dining involves the customer scanning a QR-code from their phone which pops-up a digital menu for the customer to order from. The entire experience – from browsing the menu to payments can be handled without needing human interaction. Petpooja’s Scan & Pay allows you to do just that, without needing any tech smarts yourself. A simple and intuitive interface allows your restaurant to become contactless as soon as you come onto the platform.

The only part that QR-code ordering does not solve for is food service, which is still handled by humans. The migration of staff to their hometowns combined with the fear of interacting with other humans as a result of the pandemic has created significant tailwinds for the adoption of robotics. Even here, Petpooja can help. We have developed a completely automated FoodBot, a robotic server to replace all repetitive tasks of a waiter.

  • Bring food from kitchen to the table
  • Take Soiled plates back to the kitchen for washing
  • Bring the printed bill to the table

Not just for adapting to these new technologies, but even day-to-day operations, I would highly recommend you to check out Petpooja’s Restaurant POS and Management Platform.

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