They Won’t Let a Pandemic Hold Them Down
By Kayce Tiongson
Eating out will not be the same in the next months — and it doesn’t have to be so bad.
We’re halfway through the year, and news about the pandemic COVID-19 hasn’t slowed down. Restaurants are one of the hardest hit industries, some forced to shut down permanently, and others pushed to adjust to the new normal. As restaurants around the world reopen, we witness new dining trends.
Cleanliness All the Way!
“Don’t touch your face!” We’ve heard this many times. Cleanliness has always been part of the food industry. One of the most common hygienic practices is the use of hair nets. We see restaurant and cafe staff wear hair nets or at least a ponytail to ensure that we don’t end up sipping soup only to find a hair strand in the bowl. When applying for a job at a fast-food chain, one of the questions can be situational such as “What would you do if a customer complains that there is a staple wire in his drink?” We take food seriously because it has a direct relation to our health. One mistake can lead to serious matters such as food poisoning. Now that we are in a more difficult situation, diners are wary of what they touch. It’s easy to be afraid when you cannot see your enemy. It’s easy to be anxious when you’re sitting at a restaurant and a thought comes to mind: “What if this spoon has the virus?”
Restaurants and other food establishments are exerting every effort to help diners feel more comfortable. Sanitation is done regularly. Staff wear masks, face shields, and gloves. Silverware is washed and thoroughly sanitized. Tables are moved farther away from each other. Hand sanitizers are also readily available for both staff and customers.
Since we are compelled to practice social distancing, online transactions have peaked to new heights. Many restaurants have opted to offer takeout to keep the business going. Customers have embraced this method as food chains began to hire more staff for delivery operations, one of which is Domino’s Pizza, which is looking to hire 10,000 employees. Another pizza chain, Papa John’s, saw a rise of 33.5% in sales by the second quarter of the year. According to Technavio, the online food delivery services market is poised to grow by USD 104.45 bn from 2019–2023. The continuous development of the internet combined with the current global situation will surely lead to a cultural shift where both businesses and consumers are more active online.
Creativity Is Winning
If there’s one positive thing about difficulties, it’s that it gives us more room for creativity. The hashtag #socialdistancing leads to a number of photos that depict how every corner of the world is coping with the new norm. In many Asian and European countries, acrylic or plexiglass dividers are used to separate diners. Stickers are marked on the floor to guide customers in queue. People cannot enter establishments unless their temperature is checked. In the Netherlands, diners sit in individual glass enclosures (think tiny greenhouses) along the Oosterdok marina.
Even quirky solutions are booming! In Sydney, cardboard cut-outs of customers are placed at dining tables. To recreate the ambiance of a crowded dining hall, the sound of recorded chatter blends with the background music. The Thais have something cuter than cardboard cut-outs: stuffed pandas! These fluffy toys occupy random chairs to help diners sit farther apart. Meanwhile, Burger King Germany gives out giant crowns for customers to wear to ensure that they are practicing social distancing.
These efforts are proof that society will always find a way to socialize.
The Things We Will Miss
Surely, we are going to miss how dining out was back before the pandemic. Passing plates with friends, dipping kushikatsu into a shared container of sauce, and laughing out loud without the thought of getting the virus will be unseen in the next months. But our creativity will always prevail, and we will continue to enjoy life even with all its present constraints.
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