The pandemic has changed a lot of things in the last year and a half, and we’ve seen major changes in the restaurant industry. One of the biggest changes affected the way that diners eat within the walls of their favorite restaurants. There are, however, some in-house dining changes within the restaurant industry that many of us are hoping will stick around in a post-pandemic world.
We watched as restaurants all over the country reevaluated their seating arrangements, implemented contactless or low-contact ordering practices, increased their sanitation practices, and added outdoor dining options. In fact, 62% of fine dining restaurants have committed to creating or expanding their outdoor seating since the pandemic began. Keep reading to learn about the changes that restaurants will see stick around even when the pandemic becomes a distant memory.
Many restaurants have updated their seating arrangements to give people the necessary space for safety in the pandemic. This included glass installments between booths, private and curtained-off dining areas, and even sometimes completely remodeled private dining rooms. Once a luxury for only high-end restaurants or VIP diners, now many restaurants offer more intimate seating.
There are several other benefits to more private seating in restaurants besides allowing customers to feel safe indoors. People who are hard of hearing suddenly can enjoy their time out more in a quieter and more secluded space with less background noise. Dining out in a private area can feel more intimate and comfortable for diners, allowing them to enjoy their evening more. Private seating is definitely a trend that many diners are hoping will stick around in a post-covid world.
If you’ve been to a restaurant in the last year, you’ve likely ordered via a menu on your phone made possible by QR code at your table. These menus on your phone have proved to be very useful for restaurants. They make it easier for restaurants to easily remove or add dishes, highlight certain dishes on specific days of the week, and update prices as needed. They’ve also provided an alternative to restaurants using single-use menus or dealing with sanitizing reusable menus for each party.
While some restaurants have already reverted back to a pre-covid system, many are choosing to keep their menu available via the QR code to facilitate a contactless transaction. Many other restaurants have also started providing app-based takeout and delivery options, and other restaurants like fast-food venues have completely switched over to kiosk ordering.
Automatic gratuity is a set fee (usually a percentage) that is automatically applied to the bill and typically takes place of the traditional tip that is left for the server. Traditionally this was only included in the bill for large parties, but many restaurants added this on to the bill regardless of the party size during covid. This was in part to ensure less contact like an exchange of cash during the height of the pandemic, but many servers pushed for this practice to stick around. Many servers and diners alike believe that the current tipping custom is outdated and that automatic gratuity is a more fair way to ensure that they are being fairly compensated for their work.
Many restaurants faced the tough task of coming up with new recipes or finding replacements for ingredients during supply chain problems during the pandemic. This forced restaurants to source things locally, switch up ingredients, or focus on providing only the best-selling items from their menu. Those of us who tend to have a hard time being a part of the Clean Plate Club will appreciate that restaurants are also implementing smaller portion sizes. Smaller portion sizes are not only more affordable for many people during this unprecedented economy, but they promote being more conscious of waste as well.
Outdoor dining has been met with excitement by much of the country. With restrictions in place, many codes and regulations were reevaluated by officials to allow restaurants to convert extra sidewalks space or grassy areas nearby into luxurious dining areas. In cooler portions of the country, many were skeptical about how well outdoor dining would function but as many found out, the addition of heat lamps and wind shields made the experience pleasant.
During the pandemic, many new cleaning practices were put in place by restaurants. With diners more aware than ever of the need for thorough and consistent cleaning, restaurants have revisited the ways in which they can provide a more sanitary dining experience. Beyond thorough wiping and sanitizing of surfaces, many restaurants have added air filtration systems to their building. Not only does this help with general cleanliness, but those who are immunocompromised or who have asthma or allergies have been enjoying the benefit of these revamped cleaning practices.
While you may greatly appreciate some of these changes, you might also be hoping that some of them are not here to stay for much longer. For some people, the interaction with their server is a part of restaurant dining that they value highly, and for others, not so much. Some of you may be loving eating under the hot sun and enjoying the fresh air on your favorite restaurant’s outdoor dining pavilion, while some of you may be wishing desperately for an air-conditioned corner booth. One thing is for certain is that covid changed the landscape of restaurant dining and only time will tell which of these trends are bound to stick around for the long haul.
What are QR codes and what do they have to do with dining?
A QR code is a type of barcode that is made up of many black and white squares within a square. These codes actually date back to 1994 and are typically used to store URLs or other information that is readable by smartphones’ cameras. Many restaurants have made their menus available online and added QR codes to their tables which customers can easily use to navigate to their menu.
Is automatic gratuity legal?
Automatic gratuity is legal and is considered a ‘service charge.’
Can air filters really help sanitize restaurants?
Per the United States Environmental Protection Agency “When used properly, air cleaners and HVAC filters can help reduce airborne contaminants including viruses in a building or a small space” however, notably “by itself, air cleaning or filtration is not enough to protect people from COVID-19.”