Sunday, December 5

From carrying your own cutlery to pre-ordering on apps, here’s how the eating-out experience is about to change post #lockdown

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Even as the economy limps into the fourth phase of the lockdown, restaurateurs are grappling with what could be the new normal — social distancing, stringent sanitation and hygiene checks, restricted access to resources and ingredients, reduced manpower, and wary customers unwilling to spend a fortune on elaborate dishes with imported ingredients.

With WFH being the new norm, and the government encouraging home delivery and takeaways across cities, the challenge for restaurateurs who are burdened with expensive real estate, is to reimagine the business model and lure customers back to their tables again. While they await the government guidelines for reopening their outlets, chefs, restaurateurs and other stakeholders list the ways your dine-out experience is about to change.

Bring your own cutlery

Standard guidelines say a minimum of 30 minutes of stantisation before restaurant cutlery can be used. If you are not confident about the sanitation process, just BYOC or Bring your Own Cutlery. Some restaurants are planning to use disposable cutlery too, though they say supply is erratic.

Minimal interaction with service staff

Digital menu, QR codes, pre orders on restaurant apps – just some of the tech enabled ideas that restaurateurs are considering. While some of them had already been using i-pads and customised apps to take down orders before the pandemic, you can expect more restaurants to go the digital way.

New-look service

Servers will sport a whole new look. Besides the mandatory masks, gloves and head covers, some of them may also wear face shields while serving. Uniforms will have a more conservative look with maximum coverage and zero fuss.

Keeping safe distance

Crowded bars are a thing of the past. Resto bar and pub owners will follow social distancing guidelines while tables will be six-feet apart. This would however mean operating with only a third of the capacity, and fewer bartenders and service staff.

Tweaking the menu

With the focus on local produce, and a greater awareness of the farm to fork cycle, customers are likely to ask for simple, homegrown dishes. Restaurateurs and chefs are expecting a deeper engagement with guests on the menu, recipes and the ingredients. So no to imported Basa and a resounding yes to Kolkata Bhekti!

Talking Heads

Anjan Chatterjee, founder-chairman Speciality Restaurants

“Focus will be on safety and hygiene with only 25% of existing seatings because of the social distancing guidelines. Intelligent menu, no buffet, contact-less ordering with apps, using a QR code that will directly inform the kitchen – are the other changes. We have already started using only local produce and we have a plan to stick to that.”

Vikas Kumar, Executive Chef, Flury’s

“During the lockdown, we have had the whole nation in the kitchen, learning how to cook. The fact that food does not appear on its own, is perhaps dawning on millenials for the first time. Mindful eating will be the norm around the world.”

Sushanta Sengupta, chef-owner 6 Ballygunge Place

“Contact-less service, more space between tables, digital menu will be the norm. Disposable cutlery may not work in a fine dine or speciality restaurant, and we do not have enough suppliers who can meet the demand for high grade cutlery.”

Suborno Bose, founder-chief mentor IIHM, Indismart group

“By using your hands to eat, especially when you are having Indian food, you can save lakhs of rupees on sanitisation and cutlery expenses. Disposable cutlery is not sustainable.”

Avantika Saraogi, partner Monkey Bar and Fatty Bao, Kolkata

“We need to reimagine the menu with more bite sized portions, easy to handle foods on the menu. We will operate with a reduced team strength, and the menu is likely to reflect that.”

Pritha Sen, food consultant and researcher

“I know I will carry my own cutlery when I step out to eat and encourage others to do the same. It’s also a time to think Indian in all aspects of the business.”

How restaurants around the world are serving

> A restaurant in Amsterdam, Netherlands, has introduced ‘quarantine greenhouses’ so as to enable customers to maintain social distancing.

> Burger King is trialling an app for ordering food and booking a table at its outlets in Italy, as it seeks to persuade locals it is safe to eat out again after more than two months of coronavirus lockdown.

> In Hong Kong, guests are required to sign a health declaration form before entering the restaurant. Besides, they are offering a hygienic option for guests to store their masks in during the meal.

> When going out for drinks or dinner in Switzerland, one customer in each group will also be asked to leave their contact details with the bar or restaurant to enable contact tracing.

Source: Times of India

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