Let’s be honest. Before 2020 and the start of the coronavirus pandemic, you probably got complacent about life in general. Then when the COVID crisis hit home, you started to take stock and saw more meaning in some activities you had taken for granted for several years.
Sometimes that’s the way our minds, as a society, work. It’s only when we are challenged, or we see our way of life altered, do we then take more time to see what we had and indeed then also understand the importance of aspects of our life that we never thought about very much before.
In the words of Joni Mitchell in her iconic song Big Yellow Taxi, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” But, unfortunately, arguably more actual words have never been spoken.
When it comes to how the coronavirus hit industries and changed markets as a whole, the hospitality industry is one sector that was hit worse than most. The number of restaurants and bars permanently closed during the two years of the pandemic was genuinely astonishing, with tens of thousands going out of business.
The way the restaurant industry has sought to adjust accordingly is a sign that things will not be the same as they were before the virus struck.
The Industry Has Changed Forever
Those restaurants that survived the pandemic, at least the worst aspects of it as the virus hasn’t left us, are those who either had a solid financial backing (huge chains) or those who adapted. This has reduced the pool of options for customers and has meant that those still in operation have had to raise their game.
High-end eateries with opulent restaurant chairs and sophisticated design and those with a more down-to-earth appeal were more likely to survive, and many of the options in between floundered.
Similarly, those with excellent takeout options thrived during the two years of the worst restrictions, and if your restaurant didn’t have much going for it in this area, then you missed a trick.
Eating Out Is Now a Luxury For Most Of Us
Before the pandemic, some of us were eating out very regularly. Even those who wouldn’t consider themselves well off would eat out perhaps once a week. However, the act of eating out will now start to become more of a luxury. This has already become evident, and it’s a factor that led to the closure of many restaurants.
An activity that we got so used to enjoy has now become a less commonplace pastime, and that means that we may be willing to pay that little bit more on the occasions where we do go out.
In a way, this is a bit like taking a step back in time. In the 70s, 80s, and even to some extent, the 90s, families would eat out as a treat. However, it would be a one-off and not the ‘norm.’ Going out on a date to an exclusive restaurant was something that would seem like the height of decadence, and we may be moving back in that direction again.
Though this way of thinking may be a more forced one and not a cultural shift, it is likely to remain for a while, especially as we are in a post-pandemic financial crisis.
Crowded Areas Make Us Uneasy
Even though the virus has decreased in terms of the harm it poses, especially if you have been vaccinated, we are still very much uneasy in crowded places. That means restaurants that had previously sought to pack people in to maximize capacity have had to adjust their layouts and not just suit governmental guidelines.
Think about the business lunch crowds that existed before the pandemic, where people would be herded in next to people they didn’t know. Meals were brought to them as if they were merely visitors on a conveyor belt, and it’s an experience that visitors won’t accept anymore.
Businesses that respect this and plan for it are more likely to get repeat visitors. This is particularly true of those restaurants and cafes that have large outdoor areas, allowing people to quite literally breathe more easily.
Take Out Has Never Tasted Better
It’s true that people ordering takeout, delivered by motorcycle delivery staff, was already a burgeoning industry before 2020, and now it’s expanded beyond recognition.
You only have to walk out of your door and look left or right. You’ll invariably see a fleet of color-coordinated delivery drivers on scooters and bikes, weaving through traffic to bring people their takeout meals, to tell just how popular the niche has become.
Previously we may have thought that takeout food was inferior to what you’d eat in a restaurant, not just because of the time it spends outdoors in a delivery driver’s bag, but now it’s something we do instinctively.
It’s never been easier to order delicious food, and the relative additional cost of doing so is so tiny that we barely question it. This is another reason we don’t visit restaurants as much as we used to; in a way, there’s no real reason to do so. This is a fundamental shift that isn’t going to reverse. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle.
A More Niche Experience
Suppose we concede that eating out is something we’ll all be doing much less. In that case, it’s not a giant leap to then determine that our personal preferences then play an even more significant part in the decision-making process when it comes to selecting a restaurant we want to visit.
Restaurants that offer a niche experience be that catering for specific dietary needs (such as vegans) or for taste or geographical purposes (say, for instance, restaurants that offer a particular genre of food from a region), will become all the more welcoming as they make the experience seem more personal.
Then that if you have these specific requirements that when you find a restaurant that caters to them and does so impeccably, you’ll return again and again.
This is all part of the culinary experience having to up its game to make up for the shortfall in demand, a critical factor in where we are now when it comes to the eating-out industry.