Less interaction with restaurant staff, more cleaning likely to linger
After indoor food service has been closed in many parts of the United States amid COVID-19 closures, in-person indoor dining is back.
While the highly contagious delta variant and low vaccination rates in some areas fuel an increase in COVID-19 infections that can lead to more closures, at some point indoor meals will be back, but that may not be exactly the same as it is remembered.
Chefs, restaurateurs and industry experts have suggested that many industry changes inspired by coronaviruses will be lasting, such as increased interest and availability in outdoor dining, more technology and more. take-out options. But what about the changes to the old-fashioned interior dining experience in person?
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Restaurant cleaning practices developed amid COVID-19 should stay
One lasting change that should benefit the public is improved sanitation. Diners can expect some public availability of hand sanitizer, whether bottles at the host booth or more permanent dispensers, to remain in sight.
Cleaning has increased during the pandemic, and many experts predict that as customers come back, they will continue to favor restaurants that put cleanliness first.
“I would say that customer expectations for cleanliness and sanitation will continue to be at the forefront of the post-COVID dining experience,” said Mark Montoya, general manager of Sawmill Market, an artisanal food court in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which opened just before COVID-19 closures began last March. “This has always been a priority for the restaurant industry, but over the past year the world has revolved around Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer. At Sawmill, we will continue to train our staff to wash constantly hands and wipe frequently touched areas.
Steve Haigh agrees. Haigh is the co-founder of Scotch + Bacon Group, which operates four restaurant concepts in Miami (Chikin, Būya, Kyu and Laid Fresh) as well as spinoffs in Montreal, Toronto and Mexico City. “I predict that as guests return to the dining room, they will be more aware of their surroundings. They’ll want more space, visible sanitation practices, and the introduction of more private rooms for small groups.
Fewer server interactions expected to continue as restaurants invest in contactless technology
Chef Peter Merriman has been at the forefront of the Hawaiian restaurant scene for 30 years and has gone through many changes during that time. It has its signature foodie Merriman’s outposts in Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii, and during the pandemic it has invested in several security technologies.
“Last year, we invested in carbon dioxide monitors and an ultraviolet sanitizing lamp for the HVAC system at our restaurant in Oahu. We’ve also added HEPA filters and carbon dioxide monitors to our flagship Waimea site, Merriman’s Waimea. We will continue to use this equipment for the foreseeable future. “
Contactless transactions reduce not only people-to-people contact but also the need for so many staff.
“Expect to see a lot more ordering kiosks,” says Mike Hiller, food critic and food blogger based in Dallas and Los Angeles. “They’ve been at airports for years for that reason alone, less staff. … Now, they’ve moved into McDonald’s, and a lot more automation is coming to lower and mid-level restaurants and fast, casual food places, ”he says, adding,“ There will always be a place for it. gastronomy. and full service, but in the quick and relaxed local chain, your interaction with the waiter adds nothing to the dining experience.
Likewise, the use of QR codes to replace physical menus was prompted by fear of spreading germs but appears to be here to stay.
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Hiller estimated that about 50% of restaurants use QR codes. “And they love it,” he said. “This allows them to use flexible on-demand pricing, just like hotels and Uber, something savvy operators have long wanted.… They can delete the dishes they’ve run out of and move the things they need to. push them to the top of the leaderboard. list. “
The paperless alternative may, however, be lacking for some diners.
“People love the menus. So, better restaurateurs are now hiring graphic designers to improve their digital offerings. … People love food photos, so expect to see more elaborate digital menus with more photos.
What has become “normal” again?
While exterior additions, like igloos and greenhouses for private dining, remain at many restaurants, similar interior changes brought about by my social distancing, plastic dividers at fewer tables further apart, have largely disappeared.
As restaurants began to reopen, many experts predicted that more common dining items, from all-you-can-eat buffets to table-top preparations (Caesar salad in hand, foster bananas, etc.) would be the last to come back, but this it’s not the case. Even Merriman, who has invested heavily in new disinfection equipment, says, “Our customers are dying to get back to normal, and bringing back dishes like our Tableside Poke is a step in that direction.
In Las Vegas, where buffets have always been a highlight for breakfast, lunch, and dinner visitors at nearly every casino, some have returned with no restrictions. After a short-term move towards more food served by the staff, the help yourself approach is back, but with more oversight.
Caesars Place doubled and after 14 months of closure and a multi-million dollar renovation, reopened its flagship Bacchanal buffet at Caesars Palace in May with nearly 100 new offerings. Dim sum style carts now roam the dining room and serve at the table.
Spokeswoman Chelsea Ryder said new health and safety protocols include more frequent cleaning and disinfection. Hand sanitizer is at every buffet station; staff change serving utensils at least hourly; reservations minimize waiting times and long lines; and unvaccinated people should wear masks.
MGM Grand, Excalibur, Bellagio, South Point, Wynn Resort and the Cosmopolitan have also reopened buffets with pre-pandemic levels of self-service or a mix of waiters and self-service.
A sense of normalcy is important to the dining experience inside.
“Why do we eat out? Because it’s a social experience,” Hiller said. “Some people eat out just to have a meal, but most eat out for an experience. “
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Restaurant Safety Has Changed Dining. here’s how