Fishman Design Report -The Nest at Pelican Landing in Bonita Springs
July 2020 – Onward & Upward
July 23, 2020

11 Trends for Restaurants Responding to Covid-19 

This article presents some of the current trends in the food service industry. Sources for the following information include C.J. Fishman, the Founder of Fishman & Associates, Marisa Mangani, Vice President of Design for Fishman and Associates, and Robin Ashton of the Ashton Report.

Covid-19 is having a major impact on most industry sectors in the U.S. and around the world. Restaurants and other businesses involved with food preparation and food delivery are scrambling to respond to changing needs and perceptions. Experts predict that between 10 and 20 percent of restaurants will close permanently as a result of Covid-19. Revenue is down about 50 percent across the board and downsizing could be an issue for the next two to three years.

The longer term prospects for restaurants and the businesses that support them is positive. One of the key questions is can sit down restaurants fully recover with changing expectations related to how food is served, spacing between tables and other issues related to public safety. The primary focus is adapting the equipment and protocols to be responsive to how a pandemic can spread in a closed environment.  

Here’s a summary of 11 trends for restaurants responding to COVID-19 that have been noted by our respected experts and presented in random order:

Ghost Kitchens. Entrepreneurs will be building establishments that produce high quality restaurant meals for delivery only as their primary model. These lean kitchens with no front of house will be able to produce a varied menu and will specialize in ensuring food quality is maintained from kitchen door to household door.

Ultraviolet Sanitation. UV lights, previously seldom used in restaurants, will now be a popular method to sanitize flatware and surfaces and promote customer safety.

Food Truck Courts. People want the experience of dining out, and multiple food trucks with outdoor dining is a safe and enjoyable break from take-out and delivery.

Importance of Technology. The use of technology in the area of customer interface has been an industry driver for many years. More solutions will be forthcoming that minimize unintended contaminations. Examples include the use of phone apps to order food, digital keyboards in the restaurant, and the use of robots to automate food processing safely.

Goodbye Salad Bars and Buffets. This change could be temporary or longer lasting depending on the availability of a vaccine. Cafeteria style restaurants will use food shields to separate food items from their guests. They will also go back to having employees serving guests directly.

Goodbye Self-serving Beverage Dispensers. This change also relates to protecting guests from unintended contamination. Same goal of replacing self-serve with direct employee-support from behind the counter. 

Goodbye Crowded Dining Rooms. This change is well underway with the recommendations of social distancing from the CDC and state health departments. Many states are recommending restaurants not exceed 50 percent capacity as a way of ensuring social distancing.

Goodbye Crowded Bars. One of the possible developments is restaurants and liquor stores offering drive-thru cocktail service.

More Disposable Tableware. Replacing permanent tableware with disposable items is a logical way of reducing the risk of unintended contamination. A related trend could be the widespread use of straws that are individually wrapped.

More Healthy Meals and Immune Boosting Foods. More adults will prioritize their personal health and immune system with organic plant-based food. This trend was well underway prior to Covid-19, but it’s likely to grow in the months and years ahead.

Direct Delivery. Third party delivery continues to expand with companies like Grub Hub, Doordash and Uber Eats. The convenience of fast food restaurants is causing traditional sit down restaurants and liquor stores to consider their own options for adapting their building to accommodate drive thru capabilities. Many others promote local delivery and curbside pickup

If you have questions about how how to best design your commercial kitchen in response to COVID-19, please contact us for a consultation.