In a blink of an eye, COVID-19 has changed everything we have ever known. Hugs are suddenly dangerous, and so are touching our faces, going out without a mask, and sitting or standing close to other people, including those we know.
Our daily routines were challenged, too. We can no longer touch surfaces mindlessly, enter a commercial establishment without our temperatures being checked, and ride cabs without an acrylic shield for cars. Because of those, affected businesses were forced to spend money on extra supplies, or else they will face penalties and potentially shut down.
And since a specific cure is barely within our reach yet, the holidays will be different this year. Common family traditions, which include going to the church, visiting relatives, and holding Christmas parties, aren’t likely to push through. Though restrictions have already been eased, most people are still eager to avoid close contact as much as possible. In turn, restaurants, cinemas, and other outdoor entertainment places, which are usually filled during the holidays, may see a significant decline in visitors this year.
How Restaurants Have Adjusted
Restaurants are known for suffering the impact of COVID-19 the most. From accounting for 7% of all employment in the US, restaurants were suddenly forced to lay off nearly half of their workforce, which consisted of over 15.5 million individuals.
A post from Food Policy Action noted that the cash flow of restaurants is entirely reliant on current business. That means that the bills from 45 days ago can only be paid with the revenue they earn today. Hence, the Food Policy Action post is a plea for Congress to step in and support their industry.
The damage suffered by restaurants is extensive because when such a business closes down, the effect doesn’t stop on its workers. It reaches its suppliers, who are usually small-scale, local farmers.
Some dining establishments have managed to change their business model. They were able to match the current demand for the “shelter in place” dining experience. Canlis in Seattle, Washington, is one of the fine-dining restaurants that pulled this off well. They narrowed down their menu, offering bagels and sandwiches in the morning, then switch them off for burgers, salads, and ice-cream at night. They also provided a drive-through service. And they’ve proven exemplary because they’ve sold nearly 500 bagels in 90 minutes, thanks to the incredible reception for their drive-through service.
Three-star Michelin restaurant Alinea in Chicago, Illinois, employed a clever tactic as well. Famous for their immersive theatrical food presentations, they recently offered beef short rib wellington, with equal servings of mashed potato and crème brûlée on the side. Available for pick-up only to minimize infection risks. But on top of that, the to-go option is a way to hire back their laid-off employees, according to Alinea’s co-owner Nick Kokonas.
Based on the two examples above, it’s proven that the pandemic has forged change in every restaurant’s business model. Besides offering a drive-through service and rehiring employees, dining establishments were also urged to adopt cashless payment systems, limit the number of dine-in customers, and disinfect even more thoroughly than they’re already doing.
But despite restaurants’ adherence to the stringent protocols, the forecast for the hospitality industry remains grim. The predicted nationwide loss by the end of the year is $240 billion, as per the National Restaurant Association.
In Maryland, meanwhile, a state with has around 11,000 restaurants employing over 200,000 people, the forecast is disheartening, too. The president of the Maryland Restaurant Association, Marshall Weston, stated that 35% of all restaurants in the state were likely to close permanently.
Weston stressed that the longer the restricted seating capacity and other health concerns go on, the closures are more likely to happen. He added that this pandemic is the “reinvention of restaurants,” with people realizing that they’ve been taking these establishments for granted. All our lives, we’ve been used to packing restaurants and bars to help them thrive. But now that those opportunities were taken away from us, people in the industry and consumers alike are struggling.
Christmas in the Time of COVID-19
With restaurants closing and people losing their jobs, Christmas doesn’t seem so merry anymore. But COVID-19 isn’t likely to “cancel” the yuletide season. Families may be unable to dine in their favorite restaurants anymore, and friends will no longer have a festival to look forward to, but there are other ways to feel merry.
You can shop online and order takeout to help businesses. You may even eat in select restaurants or pubs, as long as you don’t come with too many people. But it would still be safer to stay at home, and many restaurants aren’t accepting bookings, anyway. Hence, enjoy an intimate gathering at your abode, and it may even be your best holiday yet.
When this crisis is over and restaurants operate normally again, we would surely be more grateful and realize that health is the best asset the world has ever got.