How The Hospitality Industry Is Re-Inventing Itself Post-Covid-19

Few industries have experienced such an adverse impact in 2020 than the hospitality sector.  First, there was Brexit and the knowledge that freedom of movement will end on 31 December 2020, thereby cutting off a pool of talent the industry relies on.  However, at least this came with three and a half years’ warning. Then, the Covid-19 pandemic became the next threat. This article focuses on post-lockdown innovation.

May was the sunniest calendar month on record. Typically, such glorious weather would see people flocking to cafes, pub gardens, and restaurants to socialise and let their skin soak up the warm rays.

But not this year.  On 20 March 2020, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced that pubs, cafes, and restaurants had to shut their doors for the near future.  Three days later, the entire UK went into lockdown.

Now, three months on, a date for re-opening has been tentatively set – 4 July 2020.  However, strict guidelines are being established to ensure the safety of staff and customers.  These include the requirement to space customers two metres apart, with queuing systems in place for toilets and at the entrance. ‘Empties’ must be left on the table, and people will not be allowed to congregate near the bar.

Owners of hospitality businesses have not been idle during the past two months.  Many have been focused on innovating and re-inventing their business, so they are ready for re-opening.

Linda Clark, owner of the vegan restaurant, Fat Rabbit in Oswestry has said:

“After furloughing my staff and taking a week out to take a breath and regroup, a fellow food-based small business owner mentioned that they were doing a delivery service for their product. And although it has meant making food on my own and changing my website to be e-commerce friendly, it has actually been a fantastic pivot business-wise. I’m quite a positive person and my business is very much mission-led so it was essential for me to find a way through. Experimenting with frozen meals, social media-based sales etc has allowed me to take the business in potentially a more profitable direction. And I have been able to take my customers on the journey with me.”

Delivery-only kitchens such as Fat Rabbitt are one of many methods those in the hospitality sector can use to attract customers and revenue during the slow road to re-opening and beyond.  

Many countries are ahead of the UK in easing lockdown restrictions, so we at Sacked In The City have taken a look at innovative ways that the international hospitality industry continues to serve customers in a safe way post-lockdown:

  • Operating a food-truck near a park or open space.  A minimalist menu will keep costs down and people can consume delicious food and coffee whilst safely socially distancing.
  • Cooking classes – interest in home baking and cooking have dramatically increased over lockdown (as evidenced by the flour shortage).  Set up your YouTube channel/Instagram and concentrate on gaining a loyal audience.  You could also look at developing your own food products to market to your followers.
  • If you have the space for outdoor seating, you can set yourself apart by creating intimate spaces.  Mediamatic Eten in Amsterdam has created five “serres séparées,” or separated greenhouses so diners can relax and enjoy views of the waterfront. These are similar to the ‘igloos’ at various bars and restaurants in London in the winter.
Igloo dining on London’s waterfront
Mediamatic Eten in Amsterdam
  • You could consider social distance designs customers can wear whilst dining.  French designer Christophe Gernigon has created the Plex’Eat, a cylinder of transparent plastic that hangs from a cable on the ceiling, similar to a lampshade.
Christophe Gernigon’s Plex’Eat
  • Over 200 restaurants throughout Europe have requested the design, which comes in various sizes to suit the space available.  Alternatively, you may like to take inspiration from a German restaurant, Café & Konditorei Rothe.  The eatery has opted for colourful pool noodles attached to hats to keep customers apart.
  • Many restaurants are seating mannequins, cardboard cut-outs of people, and even toy pandas in empty chairs, so diners feel less isolated when social distancing.

We at Sacked in the City miss all of our City hang-outs and support their safe, socially distanced re-opening efforts. The hospitality industry has shown enormous creativity and innovation during the most challenging economic time in living memory.  And as more establishments open their doors to the public, it is likely we shall see great examples of how to eat, drink, and be merry at a safe distance in London and around the UK.

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Stay well, stay vital, stay safe.