The Future of Dining Out: How Will COVID-19 Change the Way People Eat in Restaurants?

dining out

COVID-19 has upended every aspect of life. The routines and habits that people have gotten used to suddenly disappeared as countries locked down in order to prevent healthcare systems from collapsing as extremely ill patients come en masse to emergency rooms.

The past year has also been mired with business closures and shortages of basic needs. Many could not get toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic as the public health crisis disrupted the global supply chain.

These events have forced people to take things into their own hands. A number of social media users took up cooking and baking to put food on their plates and to pass the time. Others also took up gardening as a way to eat more healthily and boost their immune system to better fight COVID-19.

With vaccination efforts ramping up in the majority of the countries, there is hope that, soon, the pandemic will end. Populations will emerge from months- and year-long lockdowns. Life will go back to normal.

But, in the post-pandemic world, will old habits and routines return? Or, has COVID-19 changed people for good?

Food Trends in a Post-Pandemic Future

One sector that will be interesting to watch as the United States comes out of the pandemic is food.

Before COVID-19, a survey found that more than half of respondents dine in restaurants or order food to-go and get deliveries at least two to three times a week. Around 10% said that they eat out more frequently at around four to six times a week. A small portion of the respondents (6%) admitted they get their meals from restaurants every single day.

However, when COVID-19 started spreading, the number of people who do not dare to go outside and dine at a restaurant increased. A survey revealed that more than half of respondents (55%) said that they were eating at home more often compared to before the pandemic.

It is a huge change of lifestyle for many American households, but it showed that many people prioritize their health over their love for dining at a restaurant.

Diners Will Come Back to Restaurants

That, of course, does not mean food establishments will lose their patrons. Entrepreneurs who are looking into an opportunity for a restaurant franchise would not be losing cash because of the long-term impacts of COVID-19.

There will be some key changes.

Outdoor dining, which is far safer than eating indoors during the pandemic, will likely remain. Its popularity will not entirely be because of fear of contracting an illness, but because it offers a better experience. Expect European-style urban centers where tales and chairs spill to sidewalks, parking lots, alleys, and streets.

Al-fresco dining will not always be possible but, when the weather is nice, consumers will want to sit down and eat under the bright blue sky.

Some restaurants that have so far survived the pandemic through diversifying their offerings will continue to accommodate not just take-outs and deliveries, but possibly meal kits. The past year has opened the eyes of business owners to new sources of revenue. As long as the demand is there, which likely will be high for the time being, restaurants will continue to sell food in various ways.

Consumer Attitudes will Change

restaurant interior

Studies found that the virus that causes COVID-19 is spread through coughing, sneezing, talking, and laughing. Likely, this will have an influence on how people act in public spaces, including restaurants.

To those who will be opting to eat indoors, there will be less chatter and more silence, especially when servers are present to put food on the table or remove empty plates.

Moreover, private pods, where a group of designers has their own section away from everybody, will persist even after distancing is no longer necessary. It will continue to be popular because it provides security and exclusivity. In places where the weather is cold, some diners might also find eating inside igloos, domes, or bubble tents outside a restaurant appealing.

Some Things Will Disappear

COVID-19 revealed just how dirty common items in high-traffic areas are. The doorknobs and handrails everywhere you go are teeming with viruses and bacteria from other people who have touched them, too.

Instead of making the effort to constantly sanitize every object or surface, restaurant owners might just remove them completely. Those soda guns that have always been considered to be unhygienic might disappear from bars around the world. One silver lining of the pandemic is, everyone will come out of the current public health crisis with better hygiene habits and being aware of the risks of touching common, everyday items.

The changes that will come out of the pandemic will persist a little longer even after the virus has been controlled or eliminated. It is best for business owners to continue to monitor the changing attitudes and movement of consumers, so they can prepare a plan for the post-pandemic world.

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