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  • M. Villarreal


Consumer behavior changed since the start of the pandemic - have you?

Heraclitus got it right when he said: “change is the only constant in life.” But what he forgot to mention is one tiny little thing - the speed of change is capricious. Now, what better way to speed up change than with a savage microbe suddenly appearing in the human world and taking it hostage? When COVID-19 hit, the world was baffled. All industries struggled, from performing arts and spectator sports to home renovation and décor companies and commercial kitchen deep cleaning services. Yet, not many of them have been hit as hard as the hospitality industry. What has changed? What is the new normal for restaurants, and how has consumer behavior changed since the start of the pandemic? Let’s have a look.

The National Restaurant Association’s 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry report presents the following key findings:

● Compared to pre-pandemic levels, restaurant and food service industry sales were down by $240 billion in 2020.

● As of the 1st of December 2020, over 110,000 eating and drinking places faced either temporary or permanent closure.

● The eating and drinking place sector employment is down nearly to 2.5 million jobs.

It’s been a challenging year. But even as a viable vaccine rolls out, and we begin limping our way back toward “the way it was”, many believe it’s fair to ask: Has the coronavirus pandemic altered consumer behavior enough to serve up a next normal for restaurants? Is it possible that our dining experience is permanently changed? And how much of the new dining experience will persist after the pandemic subsides?

Contactless Food Service

The simplest social interactions suddenly became dangerous, let alone sitting down for a meal in public. In fact, with the now ubiquitous turn of phrase “social distancing,” Plexiglas dividers, safety guidelines, and, of course, the ultimate convenience of meal delivery services, the basic perception of how we eat our food is entirely transformed.

The restaurant industry has spent months and months scrambling to acclimate to unprecedented circumstances, perhaps without even realizing they’re gradually transitioning into the next normal. But what is the new normal for restaurants?

Using Technology

Developing a dining app offers a possibility for restaurants to reach an even broader customer base. Customers find it comfortable, convenient, and enjoyable to use digital dining interfaces through which they could easily tailor their dining preferences. This is not only an example of how consumer behavior has changed since the start of the pandemic. It is also a clear indicator that they will continue using them in the future, and possibly even beyond the pandemic.

For this reason, restaurant owners should make sure their interactive app allows their guests to enjoy their dining experience. This implies making the app high-quality and user-friendly and, of course, making sure to meet the demand. Moreover, many restaurants stay in the game and make their guests happy by:

● offering limited time offers, or LTOs for short

● regularly innovating on their menus

The Rise of the Ghost Kitchens

The massive demand for food deliveries brought about the accelerated growth of the so-called ghost kitchens. Yes, many restaurants worldwide have transformed into these special kinds of cooking facilities with no dine-in areas, producing food solely for takeout and delivery. In other words, they’ve adapted. And they were right! According to Euromonitor, these emerging cooking facilities are likely to create a $1 trillion global market by the next decade.

Keeping the Staff Safe

Restaurants are working hard to create socially safe restaurants and keep their customers safe from harm during this pandemic. But taking care of their staff is no less essential, although a slightly greater challenge. To maximize protection, restaurant owners are taking some simple precautions such as:

● requiring that their employees wear masks

● installing hand sanitation stations

● practicing clear communication regarding any new precautions in place

● installing sanitary door openers on kitchen and bathroom doors

Insisting on cleanliness

Regardless of the situation, keeping your restaurant kitchen clean is a must! But restaurant cleaning procedures, however, should be at least slightly ramped up at the time of a health crisis. Routine cleaning can hardly eliminate the bacteria. This is primarily because they are not visible to the bare eye. Plus, they often dwell in the deepest crevices or concealed areas. For example, restaurant exhaust hood cleaning is essential. Germs and odors love commercial kitchen hood vent exhaust systems. Grease build-up in ducts, filters, and fan components creates all kinds of hazardous conditions, and a generally unhealthy environment for you, your employees, and customers. For this reason, many restaurant owners have found that having restaurant kitchen deep cleaning companies on speed dial is essential.

Moreover, the present proclivity toward proper hygiene and sparkling clean environments turns out to be a growing trend. Numerous consumer surveys report that more than 80% of U.S. consumers would rather shop in places that provide self-checkout or touchless options. Thus, a significant number of restaurants resulted in automatic door installation. Some other restaurants chose to have a staff member open and close doors for customers entering the premises or restrooms inside the premises.

Emphasis on the quality dining experience

Takeout continues to be the preferred dining experience. However, research conducted by AMC global finds that consumers expect to return to the traditional modes of dining when the situation returns to normal again. So, once the trajectory of US cases enables the start of a transition toward normalcy, it’s time to finally bring the customers back to your doors. Move-in events and parties are great to promote a new location if you have recently relocated your restaurant business, or to make a perfect comeback when the pandemic subsides.

Final words

The previous year has been excruciatingly hard on all of us in so many ways. And there’s no way of knowing if “the way it was” will ever be again. But this does not mean you shouldn’t approach your business with an unmatched level of devotion and tenacity and bring the same attitude of positivity, ingenuity, and love as you did back in 2020 toward everything you do. Looking forward is key.

As you continue to push forward, if you find yourself in need of vent hood cleaning or a quality deep kitchen cleaning, please contact Cornerstone Commercial Services today at 1-800-274-3905

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