business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Boston Globe, in a piece that concedes that even as restaurants start to reopen in Massachusetts, it will "be far from business as usual," with "reliance on delivery and takeout" continuing and far fewer restaurants being open, takes a look at what the landscape may look like.

"In phase one, expect limits on seating capacity. Tables will be spaced farther apart, menus will likely be single-use, and hosts and diners will be encouraged to wear masks while checking in … diners may be required to make reservations with a time limit, and he expects walk-ins won’t be allowed. Dining with someone you haven’t been quarantining with might be out of the question.

"Phase two might also bring closer tables and larger seating capacities, while phase three could allow walk-ins, the reintroduction of buffets and self-service, and an overall scene that more closely resembles the one that existed prior to COVID-19."

Restaurateur Kathy Sidell tells the Globe that “restaurants are quickly trying to adapt to what the needs are of people at home, and it’s kind of this heat and serve thing, or a DIY, make-your-own pizza or put your own pasta dish together,” she said. “I think that won’t stop. If anything, we’ll have [restaurants] bottling their own sauces and selling whatever it is that they’re known for in a bulk kind of way if possible, a family-style kind of way.”

And one of her brethren, Jonathan Gilman, "believes that companies like Uber Eats and DoorDash will retain the influx of people who signed up and used their delivery services during the pandemic. Whether this hurts or helps restaurants is a point of contention. Despite announcing various relief measures during the pandemic — DoorDash reduced commission fees for independent restaurants, and Grubhub suspended commission fees — many delivery apps charge a commission as high as 30 percent. Some restaurateurs are hoping the recent exposure of these numbers will prompt public backlash and reduced fees in the future."

But, the Globe writes, "Amidst the financial losses and devastating closures, some chefs and restaurateurs are starting to see a silver lining. When restaurants reopen, it is hard not to imagine a continuing sense of camaraderie that has snowballed throughout the past month. Guests might be more willing to look up from their phones and talk to their neighbors. Innovation, which has become a necessity for restaurants during this time, will continue to thrive."

KC's View:

This may be about the Boston restaurant business, but it sounds like a scenario that can play out across the country.   Old business models have to give way to new innovations and approaches that compensate for the fact that this is going to be a long haul.