What restaurants can do (& what they are doing) to survive & thrive in a post-COVID world

Courtesy of Anne Lakeman for Mediamatic Amsterdam

Whether you’re a restaurant owner or worker, an occasional customer, an economist, a politician—really anyone—you’re probably wondering what it might look like to dine out in a post COVID world. No matter what happens, one truth remains undeniable—overall dining will look different in the future as customers and businesses adapt to the new normal.

And although we’re still in the early phases of navigating a post-COVD world, restaurants, breweries, pubs, and bars are already beginning to imagine a new future for their industry. What they’re doing now could pave the way for future innovations and a whole new way of dining out.   

So, what steps are restaurants taking to evolve their operations and stay afloat while contending with COVID and its psychological and cultural fallout? Read on to learn more.

If subscription services work with everything from soap to salmon, then why not restaurants?

When the pandemic hit San Francisco, the Michelin-starred restaurant Quince realized it had to either pivot or close shop. Takeout and delivery seemed like an obvious solution, but Quince decided to go further.

So, what did this San Francisco staple decide to do? It created a culinary club. Along with sister restaurants Cotogna and Verjus and Fresh Run Farm, Quince formed Quince & Co.—a membership-based dining experience that goes beyond fancy dining.

Quince at the farm. Courtesy of Joseph Weaver.

What exactly is a culinary club & how does it work?

As part of their $5,000 yearly subscription, customer members of Quince & Co. receive a $1,000 dining credit along with seasonal produce and specialty pantry products delivered to their doors each quarter.

By observing the success of CSAs (Community supported agriculture subscription models), Quince & Co. knew this type of model could work, especially when they added their own unique twist. That meant offering unique ingredients and items that were “only known to chefs and restaurant kitchens.”

The subscription package also includes exclusive reservations and educational workshops that focus on olive oil pressing, beekeeping, and learning how to pickle vegetables. According to Quince & Co., all 80 spots sold out within weeks of the launch.

How subscription-based models benefit restaurants

With subscription-based models enjoying massive success in countless industries—including foodservice—this type of venture from a well-known restaurant with deep roots in the community was bound to succeed.

Even for lesser-known restaurants, the subscription model could open the door to another valuable stream of revenue. Unlike other subscriptions for, say, salmon shares, shaving kits, and beauty products, Quince & Co.’s model offers something genuinely unique—a connection to a community and place that customers love and long for.

When the pandemic cut customers off from their favorite restaurants, it also cut them off from their sense of community and culture, which are central components to the human experience. Although Quince & Co.’s subscription model can’t restore that connection entirely, it provides a step in the right direction. And as they already proved, customers are willing to pay for it.

Plants love greenhouses and, as it turns out, so do restaurant customers. Here’s why.

Courtesy of Willem Velthoven for Mediamatic Amsterdam

We’ve all experienced the plexiglass liners that many restaurants are putting between tables to offer extra protection against COVID.

But Mediamatic ETEN restaurant in Amsterdam took that concept to a new level. Positioned along the waterfront, the restaurant’s Serres Séparées (separated greenhouses) offer additional protection from COVID and poor, chilly weather.

Like any other greenhouse, these structures trap in warmth, which offers customers a more pleasant dining experience during transitional times of the year, such as spring and fall (or even winter).

When they opened in late May 2020, these greenhouses immediately booked up through June. Due to how they extend patio season, these small greenhouses might stick around well after COVID.

Will COVID passports prevail?

At this point, we’ve all heard about the idea of a COVID passport—some formal document or app verifying your vaccination status. Already, the idea has its fair share of proponents and opponents.

In some US states, such as Texas and Florida, governors have already banned COVID passports. Even the White House said several times that it would not support federal COVID passports. 

However, if governments in the US don’t support a COVID passport, businesses still might.

Businesses are stepping in on COVID passports

For example, in San Francisco, the Giants baseball team will require proof that fans 12 years and older have been fully vaccinated or received a recent negative COVID-19 test. The Giants see this as a way for Oracle Park to successfully reopen at 22% capacity.

Airlines might also require COVID passports soon as well. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 290 airlines worldwide, plans on developing an app called Travel Pass that would let customers prove their vaccination status. The app would also allow passengers to learn about COVID requirements and locate testing areas for places they’re traveling to.

Since IATA represents 23 airlines, including some big ones like Virgin Atlantic, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and the parent company of British Airways, it seems like the Travel Pass might get some air under its wings after all. (We couldn’t resist that airline pun).

Whether the IATA’s COVID passport or others like it get off the runway and become standard practice remains to be seen. Without a concerted effort across businesses and industries or support from centralized governments, the COVID passport might never entirely take off. But with China using COVID passports and big companies considering their use as well, the idea might catch on yet.

Although there are certainly customers out there who’d be outraged at the idea of a COVID passport, there are plenty of other customers who’d likely be delighted to play along—especially if that meant going back to their favorite restaurants without worrying about COVID.

All things considered, here’s what restaurants can do right now

So, what steps can restaurants take right now to keep customers safe and the doors open? As it turns out, the answer doesn’t involve complex or spendy solutions like mini-greenhouses, subscription models, or COVID passports.

Instead, restaurants can double down on a combination of simple, affordable solutions to keep customers safe, doors open, and sales trending upward.

Some of these solutions include marking clean areas and seats with sanitization stickers and signs that let customers know where they can safely enjoy their meals. Social distancing floor decals can remind customers to maintain space between each other while standing in line. And mask signs can provide gentle reminders for customers to mask up until they’re safely seated.

And even while customers return to in-house dining, restaurants can still offer quality takeout and delivery experiences. That means providing food that travels well and that arrives safe and secure to customers. SecureIt™ tamper-evident labels can help with that.

But no matter how you decide to adapt your business, know that you can count on NCCO to provide simple, affordable solutions to your everyday foodservice challenges. For more information on what our products can do to help you succeed in a post COVID world, visit the “Products” section of our website, or contact your foodservice distributor.

Whatever you need, we’re here to help.