What restaurants can do (& what they are doing) to survive & thrive in a post-COVID world

Courtesy of Anne Lakeman for Mediamatic Amsterdam

Whether you’re a restaurant owner or worker, an occasional customer, an economist, a politician—really anyone—you’re probably wondering what it might look like to dine out in a post COVID world. No matter what happens, one truth remains undeniable—overall dining will look different in the future as customers and businesses adapt to the new normal.

And although we’re still in the early phases of navigating a post-COVD world, restaurants, cafes and pubs are already beginning to imagine a new future. What they’re doing now could pave the way for tomorrow’s innovations and a whole new way of dining out.   

So, what steps are restaurants taking to evolve their operations and stay afloat while contending with COVID and its psychological and cultural fallout? Read on to learn more.

If subscription services work with everything from soap to salmon, then why not restaurants?

When the pandemic first hit San Francisco, California, the Michelin-starred restaurant Quince realised it had to either pivot or close shop. Takeout and delivery seemed like an obvious solution, but Quince decided to go further.

So, what did this San Francisco staple decide to do? It created a culinary club. Along with sister restaurants Cotogna and Verjus and Fresh Run Farm, Quince formed Quince & Co.—a membership-based dining experience that goes beyond fancy dining.

Quince at the farm. Courtesy of Joseph Weaver.

What exactly is a culinary club & how does it work?

As part of their $5,000 yearly subscription, customer members of Quince & Co. receive a $1,000 dining credit along with seasonal produce and specialty pantry products delivered to their doors each quarter.

By observing the success of CSAs (Community supported agriculture subscription models), Quince & Co. knew this type of model could work, especially when they added their own unique twist. That meant offering unique ingredients and items that were “only known to chefs and restaurant kitchens.”

The subscription package also includes exclusive reservations and educational workshops that focus on olive oil pressing, beekeeping and learning how to pickle vegetables. According to Quince & Co., all 80 spots sold out within weeks of the launch.

How subscription-based models benefit restaurants

With subscription-based models enjoying massive success in countless industries—including foodservice—this type of venture from a well-known restaurant with deep roots in the community was bound to succeed.

Even for lesser-known restaurants, the subscription model could open the door to another valuable stream of revenue. Unlike other subscriptions for, say, salmon shares, shaving kits and beauty products, Quince & Co.’s model offers something genuinely unique—a connection to a community and place that customers love and long for.

When the pandemic cut customers off from their favorite restaurants, it also cut them off from their sense of community and culture, which are central components to the human experience. Although Quince & Co.’s subscription model can’t restore that connection entirely, it provides a step in the right direction. And as they already proved, customers are willing to pay for it.

Plants love greenhouses and, as it turns out, so do restaurant customers. Here’s why.

Courtesy of Willem Velthoven for Mediamatic Amsterdam

We’ve all experienced the plexiglass liners that many restaurants put between tables to offer extra protection against COVID.

But Mediamatic ETEN restaurant in Amsterdam took that concept to a new level. Positioned along the waterfront, the restaurant’s Serres Séparées (separated greenhouses) offer additional protection from COVID and poor, chilly weather.

Like any other greenhouse, these structures trap in warmth, which offers customers a more pleasant dining experience during transitional times of the year, such as spring and fall (or even winter).

When they opened in late May 2020, these greenhouses immediately booked up through June. Due to how they extend patio season, these small greenhouses might stick around well after COVID.

Will COVID passports prevail?

At this point, we’ve all heard about the idea of a COVID passport—some formal document or app verifying your vaccination status. Already, the idea has its fair share of proponents and opponents.

In some states within the US, governors have already banned COVID passports. Even the Biden/Harris Administration said several times that it would not support federal COVID passports. 

In the UK, COVID passports have also met stiff resistance with the Prime Minister declaring that the government would not support such an initiative. However, if governments don’t support a COVID passport, businesses will likely find other ways to adapt.

You can’t require a COVID passport, but you can require a COVID test

While a COVID passport might be off the table, businesses are finding other methods to bring people together in safe ways. With the Brit Awards taking place in May, 4,000 people will once again gather in London’s O2 arena to catch the show.

In this case, guests will not have to wear masks or practice social distancing. They will, however, need to test negative for COVID and present proof of their test before entering the arena. Once inside, however, the party is on.

After the event, attendees will take another COVID test and provide contact details for NHS Test and Trace—just in case anyone in the audience develops COVID later.

Other large venues in the UK will pilot similar protocols as well. In Liverpool, a nightclub plans on hosting 3,000 people per night on 30 April and 1 May along with a 5,000-person event on 2 May. The same rules apply—participants need to present a negative COVID test before entering the venue. The FA Cup final, which hosts 21,000 spectators, plans on following suit as well.  

Although there are certainly customers that would gawk at the idea of having to present a negative COVID test before going to a football match or concert, there are plenty of others who’d be delighted to show negative test results if that meant returning to some of their favorite places.  

All things considered, here’s what restaurants can do right now

So, what steps can businesses in the hospitality industry take right now to keep customers safe and the doors open? As it turns out, the answer doesn’t involve complex or spendy solutions like mini-greenhouses, subscription models or COVID passports.

Instead, restaurants can double down on a combination of simple, affordable solutions to keep customers safe, doors open and sales trending upward.

Some of these solutions include marking clean areas and seats with sanitisation stickers and signs that let customers know where they can safely enjoy their meals. And “face covering required” signs can provide gentle reminders for customers to mask up until they’re safely seated.

And even while customers return to in-house dining, restaurants can still offer quality takeout and delivery experiences. That means providing food that travels well and that arrives safe and secure to customers. Tamper-evident labels can help with that.

No matter how you decide to adapt your business, know that you can count on NCCO International to provide simple, affordable solutions to your everyday foodservice challenges.

For more information on what our products can do to help you succeed in a post-COVID world, visit the “Products” section of our website, or contact us directly at uksales@ncco.com.

Whatever you need, we’re here to help.

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