With the world shifting to the next stage of the coronavirus crisis, phase two will involve living with the virus. But how will restaurants look in 'the new normal'?
It is impossible to tell what the impact will be on the hospitality sector, but we do know that things will return to normal only at a very slow rate, and generally in tandem with government statistics on the rates of contagion. The possibility of a second, more severe, lockdown remains very real and small business should prepare also for that eventuality.
Some of the many ideas around enforcing social distancing in an operational restaurant include the use of Plexiglas, thermal imaging cameras and safety certificates.
Here’s a brief look at what proposals are being made for restaurants in the next phase of the coronavirus crisis.
The Lithuanian capital made headlines around the world with the progressive idea of making the centre of the city a pedestrianised area, in effect a giant open-air restaurant and café. The idea makes complete sense and the world will be watching to see how effective a solution it turns out to be.
“Everyone is more than happy and excited because they miss their favourite places," says Vilnius resident Leva Pikžirnytė. "But also cafes and restaurants are truly thankful for this, as it’s a way to liven up their businesses, their dream jobs, their lives and the economy in general.”
“People missed socialising and being out, especially when everything's blooming now, and Vilnius is a green paradise, now alive, colourful again. Food trucks can also freely work in the city - super happy.
“People seem cautious and do wear masks, all try to keep the required distance, but all-in-all people wish to get back to normalcy and to support their beloved streets, cafes and restaurants. Cafés could not take all the people who wished to sit down as only two people per table can be seated.”
New York is not only the worst-hit region in the United States, but is also at the biggest risk of a second wave considering the density of population. Mayor De Blasio is planning to open up 100 miles of streets to pedestrians. The plan could include a lot more outdoor seating for restaurants. When questioned at a press conference, de Blasio called the possibility “interesting.” The administration has “thought about it” and “begun discussions,” he said, though he added that it’s too early to unveil any plans. He went on to say that “there could be advantages to having more of it [restaurant seating] be outdoors.”
The city’s hospitality sector is desperate to get back to work, but what conditions will be imposed on it during phase 2 are far from clear. It has been suggested that restaurants will only be allowed at 50% capacity and, of course, stringent hygiene protocols for staff and guests will have to be observed. Takeout service will prop up the sector, but there will have to be measures in place to manage footfall, distancing, hygiene and customer temperature checks. There is consensus in the industry that the government has not done enough to support restaurants, and that will need to change if the sector is to recover. There are also calls to open streets and parking lots to pedestrians so restaurants and cafes can use them.
The UK is still in the throes of a very serious health crisis so restaurant reopenings seem at least two weeks away. However, when they do re-open, some radical changes to how business is done have been proposed. Social distancing will require long queues to enter, or to use the restroom. Temperatures of customers and staff will have to be taken before entry. It has also been suggested that food is ‘delivered’ to an empty table in the restaurant, whereby the guest can collect it. It is expected that restaurants’ capacity will be reduced to 55%, but whether this is enough is unsure. The outdoor option is certainly more limited in a country like England, which receives a high rainfall every summer.
The main city in the heart of Europe’s worst-hit region is planning a slow, phased return to economic activity. A gradual lifting of restrictions, however, won’t see bars or restaurants open until June 1st. The city has announced that 35km (22 miles) of streets will be transformed over the summer, with a rapid, experimental citywide expansion of cycling and walking space. The increased pedestrianised space could allow for more restaurant outdoor seating, but it is not yet clear what will happen. Milan benefits from good, dry weather in the summer and it is not unreasonable to imagine the city’s parks becoming dining areas for the city’s people.
The state’s governor announced that dining rooms can partially reopen at just 25% capacity on Friday, May 1, with a view to a phased increase in capacity.
This month, the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, said the city council was looking into reducing capacity in restaurants, enlarging outside seating areas and installing screens to keep diners separate.
“These measures are designed to allow businesses to reopen as soon as possible – while observing social distancing rules – so that they can make up their losses and the economy can be reactivated,” he told the Spanish TV programme Espejo Público.
Austria is preparing for restaurant reopening from 15th of May. Customers will have to make all bookings in advance to allow for smooth traffic and contact tracing. Guests will be limited to four per table, and a minimum of 1 metre between groups. A strict mask and glove policy will be enforced.
French restaurants and cafes may be allowed to reopen from June 2 but a decision will only be taken at the end of May. The French government remains very cautious and the restrictions will be lifted slowly. Any reopening will remain contingent on the rate of contagion staying below 1.
Germany has not yet put a date on reopening for restaurants, but it is thought the German capital will return to ‘normalcy’ before many other cities. The government announced it would help the food industry by cutting VAT from 19% to 7% from 1 July. The German economy minister Peter Altmaier is reportedly looking at a 'rescue fund for gastronomy' unless full openings could happen soon.
New South Wales' numbers are encouraging, which means some groups are pushing for a reopening of restaurants from May 1, however, that looks too soon. The Northern Territory will allow outdoor weddings and funerals from Friday. Restaurants, cafes and bars will be able to reopen from Friday, May 15.