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Opinion: Marius Zürcher on what restaurants can learn from the pandemic

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Those foodservice operators able to survive the Covid-19 crisis must take some simple steps to ensure they are future fit, says Marius Zürcher

As I write this, the Netherlands is in the middle of a dreaded second wave. Restaurants have been closed for weeks and, likely, will remain closed for many more. All over Europe, and indeed the world, restaurants are either also closed, or are open under severe restrictions.

In many cases, it’s not because of anything they did, but because of governments and citizens that, again and again, refused to do the right thing until it’s too late. Many restaurants will not survive this crisis and many neighborhoods will become nearly unrecognizable because of it. It’s a tragedy. Nevertheless, many restaurants also will somehow find a way to make it through, against all odds. New restaurants will appear too. It is therefore a good idea to look at some of the lessons that restaurants can learn from the pandemic.

Diversify and maximize space

Many of the restaurants that somehow managed to stay afloat are doing so because they either already had, or managed to quickly introduce, strong delivery and/or pickup components. Once the pandemic is over, restaurants that did not deliver or offer pickup before the pandemic should not return to their old ways. Not only is it an extra stream of income regardless of whether you are permitted to serve customers inside your restaurant or not, but many customers will also have gotten used to being able to choose between dining out and ordering in and will expect it to continue in the future.

To continue these practices in a sustainable matter, menus will sometimes have to be redesigned. In some cases, it might lead even lead to a redesign of the whole restaurant, as the new revenue stream can be used to permanently implement another change that the pandemic forced on many restaurants: space.

Extra comfort

Let’s face it: many restaurants were guilty of cramming too many tables into too small a space, to a point where it wasn’t cozy, but rather uncomfortable. The pandemic forced them to abandon that practice. Some customers will simply have gotten used to the comfort that the extra space provides once this is all over.

Many others will not only enjoy the extra space physically, but will also require it to feel safe, given that the pandemic will likely fizzle out over time, rather than end abruptly (not to mention the trauma that will remain for years after).

The pandemic has furthermore drastically accelerated the desire of consumers for healthier food. Apart from those few that manage to find success by unapologetically – and even proudly – serving food that doesn’t even try to be healthy, restaurants cannot afford to ignore this trend any longer.

Lastly, I sadly must point out that, in the age of accelerated climate change, unsafe food practices and less and less space for nature, the next pandemic could always be around the corner. While each restaurant can play its part in trying to prevent another pandemic, by being more proactive in the fight against climate change, no restaurant can single-handedly stop another one from happening. Restaurants should therefore never again be caught off guard by one.

Marius Zürcher

About the author:

The co-owner & founder of start-up 1520 in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Marius Zürcher was a participant at FCSI’s ‘Millennials’ focused roundtable at INTERGASTRA 2018.