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Pandemic may have forced positive change for the foodservice industry: Fifteen Group

People dine indoors at The Lot restaurant Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, in San Diego. With blistering heat predicted for the Labor Day weekend, most Californians face staying home during the coronavirus pandemic since movie theaters are still shuttered and only outdoor dining is allowed across much of the state. But in San Diego, the movie theaters have just reopened and shows are already selling out well past the holiday weekend. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

CALGARY – The pandemic has been a rollercoaster ride for many people around the globe.

But the restaurant industry has seen a particularly rocky ride, with restrictions around dining out being tightened and loosened and tightened again.

There are, however, a few changes that the pandemic has brought about that could positively impact the industry, according to business management consultant Fifteen Group.

“What restaurants used to talk about three pillars that were important, which were quality, service, and atmosphere. And I think now there’s going to be a fourth pillar which is going to be all about health and safety,” said Fifteen Group President David Hopkins.

Hopkins also says the pandemic has encouraged some eateries to try different dining models, like micro-restaurants, for example.

Micro-restaurants usually seat 14 or fewer people and those diners would all be served by the chef and one other person, limiting the number of people in the restaurant.

Hopkins says usually these dining experiences tend to be a bit more pricy but the practice could be appealing to consumers still hesitant to go out for dinner when restrictions are eventually eased again.

“For a chef or restaurant operator, it’s a great opportunity to minimize risk in a small space and to kind of control their small business a little easier than a 200-seat restaurant.”

Another model gaining traction is the operation of dark kitchens. No, it doesn’t mean line cooks put together dishes without lighting–dark kitchens are set up without a dine-in option, only offering delivery.

Ghost kitchens are also only set up for delivery or take-out.

“Obviously, right now, tonnes of consumers are ordering delivery nonstop,” said Hopkins.

“But I think we’re really going to see that whole delivery market fall off a bit of a cliff when people are allowed to go out and dine again.”

As the pandemic continues, the future of the restaurant industry is up in the air.

However, Hopkins is encouraging businesses to increase their prices by 10 or 15 per cent while at the same time making sure the dining experience is professional, polished, and meets health and safety requirements.