Concerns for the future
We won’t sugarcoat it. There are genuine concerns for the future of the restaurant industry. 51% of restaurant professionals felt the financial situation would get worse over the coming 6 months, while only 27% felt their governments have provided adequate support for the industry. Sentiments varied by country: two-thirds of Italians polled were pessimistic, compared to 37% of Germans. Of those who were currently unemployed, 65% lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19, whereas 72% of those currently in work feared losing their jobs.
But there was some cause for optimism: 95% of French respondents and 89% of Italians felt they would keep working in restaurants in the future. In total, 49% who lost their jobs, or think they might lose it, were confident of getting a new one. Overall, 68% are still getting paid, including 87% of UK respondents.
When it comes to the lockdown, 44% agreed with the restrictions in their respective countries, especially in the UK, where 65% were in agreement. During the period spent away from their professional kitchens, 51% enjoyed more family time – gold dust for any chef – while 41% used the time to work on new recipes and ideas, proving that the creative instinct is ever strong among chefs. But despite the luxuries of free time, over half of all respondents said they were eager to get back to work. Restaurant professionals just want to get their industry back on its feet.
Many have been keeping the industry ticking over by pivoting to new strategies to face the crisis. Almost half continued to innovate by introducing or developing delivery services, although only 12% started a meal box service. Meanwhile, a small minority prepared food for social projects and charities. Restaurant closures were taken advantage of by 35% of respondents, who took the opportunity to renew kitchen appliances and dining room furniture.
Can restaurants recover?
Industry professionals are realistic about the future, but they are determined to fight back. Although 86% felt a significant number of restaurants wouldn’t open again, and 77% feared a slow recovery and irrevocable change, 65% felt chefs would play a vital role in reinventing the industry going forward. But things must change. Restaurants need improved business models, said 69% of respondents, and 48% called for better unemployment benefits. Extra support and stimulus packages from governments is necessary, according to 42% of professionals, and 23% urged a complete redesign of the industry.
What have we learned?
The lockdown has been harsh on restaurant industry professionals, businesses have been decimated and livelihoods plunged into uncertainty. The experts polled here are clearly feeling the anxiety, but they do not harbour any illusions about the task in hand. They are confident of their own power to change things, and know that they will have a vital role in the recovery of the industry going forward. Their high levels of professionalism and expertise will stand them in good stead for the challenges ahead.