How the pandemic changed restaurant industry

by Alana Kirsch-

The Covid-19 pandemic was brutal for small businesses in America with restaurants, getting particularly hit hard. But if you’re looking for a silver lining, many of these changes provided options that brought alternative forms of revenue, opened a door for new customers, and changed the trajectory of the industry itself.  

Prior to 2019, a restaurant was a place to gather and share a meal. New safety regulations led the restaurant industry to re-evaluate its service model. Operators’ priority became their customers’ safety and restaurants worked quickly to implement new offerings that would keep them in business.  

While in-person dining services were paused restaurants focused on alternative forms of revenue. Sixty-seven percent of restaurants implemented curbside pick-up with another 27% implementing third-party delivery. 

People were able to order food from their favorite restaurants while reducing the risk of exposure. Many places even provided customers with a contactless delivery option, requesting the deliverer to leave the food at the door. 

New changes continued to be implemented even after the option for in-person dining services was re-opened.  Physical menus were replaced with QR Codes. This allowed customers to scan a code on their mobile devices which would direct them to an online version of an establishment’s menu. Contactless menus were an easy and accessible solution for most people. 

Cashless payments became the new normal. Many establishments adopted tablets to avoid giving customers physical checks. This allowed for the rise of contactless payment all together. Most restaurant establishments have continued using the new practices they implemented during the pandemic. 

Automation was not the only solution. Mandatory physical changes lead to deeper reconstructions within the system. Restaurants have been known for long hours, low wages, and few benefits. This too was changed by the pandemic. 

Social distancing called for restaurants to reduce their in-person dining availability. This allowed restaurant owners and operators to focus on the quality of their employees instead of the quantity.

With fewer and better employees to pay wages and benefits grew. The independent restaurant coalition reports since February of 2020 84% of restaurants have raised wages and 34% have added paid sick leave to benefits for their employees. 

An essential characteristic of working in any restaurant is the ability to adapt. This was especially true during the pandemic. Although these changes are a departure from the pre-pandemic world they lead to many necessary changes for employees and customers. 

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