The restaurant industry was hit hard during the coronavirus crisis with thousands of industry workers laid off and roughly 30,000 restaurants closed for good across the country. Experts predict, when those eateries that managed to stay afloat reopen for business, they will have to change the way they operate.
Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich has been a trailblazer for the use of technology even before the outbreak revamped how we order food. As early as 2016, the Harvard Business School graduate was instrumental in overhauling the menu to eliminate all artificial ingredients and also introduced what he called Panera 2.0, a tech-focused initiative that led to the introduction of tablets in the chain to expedite ordering, according to The Street.
The move was a huge success and Shaich ended up selling Panera Bread for a cool $7.5 billion in 2017. Today, he tells Yahoo Finance that ordering food from restaurant chains might again evolve following the new coronavirus outbreak.
"I think it's contactless transactions of all forms," he said. "I don't know if you've gone into several large restaurant systems, but you have to sign the screen. I'm not so happy about signing a screen today, let alone putting my credit card in one of their readers."
A contactless dining experience might seem contrary to what most consumers are used to when eating out, but in the post coronavirus world it is all about minimal interaction. According to Yahoo Finance, pizza chains like Domino's Pizza, Papa John's, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars have pioneered contactless delivery brilliantly during this pandemic. Domino's has even created what it calls a "pizza pedestal" to put under a pizza box that gets left outside.
Restaurants are going to have to figure out ways to adopt contactless transactions inside their restaurants, say experts, and impart aggressive new cleaning procedures.
Menus may decidedly change, according to Restaurant Business. For example, they will offer fewer "shareables," and focus on individual meals. Many restaurants will pay more attention to takeout items, including bar staples such as premixed cocktails and craft beer to go.
Roti Modern Mediterranean, a national chain of eateries, launched family dinners to go during the crisis and plans to continue this popular trend.
"I'm hoping to sustain and grow the dinner business now that I see it's catching on," says Molly McGrath, culinary director and chef of the 42-unit chain.
Some takeout chains are revamping their packaging so that food arrives in sealed, tamper-proof packaging that still retains the quality of the product unlike sealed plastic. Epic Burger, in Chicago, is looking at ventilated plastic bags that release the steam without sacrificing safety or sustainibility, according to Restaurant Business.
Catering will also be revamped, say experts, with more boxed lunches on the menu instead of buffet-style meals. Other restaurants plan to have customers order their dinners online so that the staff can prepare just the amount of food required and minimize waste.
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