Lessons from China
China - Shiqi Xu, Food Technology Expert
As the crisis unfolded what did it look like for the restaurant industry?
“At the end of January, all restaurants stored a lot of raw ingredients for Chinese New Year (CNY) peak season. Then the quarantine policy started before CNY. Most restaurants had to sell their raw ingredients (like grocery stores), at cost or even lower prices. During February, while people’s focus was all on hospitals and fighting the virus, some restaurant operators were offering free food to hospital doctors and nurses. While from March, some restaurants who have never offered delivery food service decided to change. They needed help to develop a quick service lunch menu to start their delivery business model.”
Any tips on steps restaurants are taking as restrictions are lifted?
“They are consuming more sanitizers to spray surfaces and wash hands. Everyone’s body temperature has to be checked every 1-3 hours. If they are travelling back to work from another city, they have to stay quarantined for 14 days before they are allowed to start work. No contact service is the norm, there are shelves and desks set up at the entrance of each community of office building. Orders have to be placed on the shelf or desk. Then the delivery service staff give a phone call to their customers. Customers pick up their orders from the desk. No face to face contact is allowed.”
China - Executive Chef Philip Li
What advice would you offer restaurants as they resume operations?
“Be patient. Restaurants must reassure their customers of their food safety and sanitation. Reduce employee head counts on each shift. Build a transparent kitchen: kitchen area is visible to customers to rebuild their trust in food safety. Prepare an emergency plan for an epidemic situation. Strict control on raw ingredient procurement, final product quality assurance and tableware disinfection. Food traceability is a must.”
Changes from Operators: Social distancing through reduced capacity
Reduced tables in Quick Service Restaurants
Social Distancing: One empty table between each diner in full service restaurant
Reduced tables in Full Service Restaurants
Social Distancing: One empty table between each diner in a quick service restaurant
Changes Encouraged from Diners
Operators encourage the use of serving chopsticks. Serving chopsticks are provided for each dish, which helps to reduce the spread of the virus.
Please line up with 1.5m distance!
Lessons from Malaysia and Singapore
Malaysia Singapore - Executive Chef Eric Chua
How is the crisis playing out across your region?
"Before the Movement control order/circuit breaker measure, F&B outlets are required to space out seating arrangement and allow a 1m distance in between, with this measure in place, operators see dropping of seating capacity and revenue by 50% immediately. Experienced F&B operators are streamlining their menu to maintain healthy inventory and kitchen operations.”
What does life look like for operators in a post-crisis world?
“Food delivery will definitely be staying even after Covid-19 and they do see the importance of diversifying their business. Restaurant starts selling mise en place to diners, ie sous vide short ribs, pre-pack marinated meat, pasta sauces, salad dressing etc. Humans do get bored of food delivery and they need activities at home hence you will see a trend of people starts cooking and posting at home more. It’s a good approach for operators to generate some revenues during bad times.”
Lessons from Europe
France - Executive Chef Cedric Lazarus
How is the industry managing this phase of the crisis?
“As of April our market in France is completely closed, restaurant, bars, hotels, schools, office canteens ... only food stores, banks and some public services are open. Today only Elderly homes and hospitals are open, people eat individually in their rooms, they respect total confinement. For hospital staff, a formidable chain of solidarity is set up by some restaurants to deliver varied meals and allow them to eat at all hours of the day or night, in small teams of 3 or 4 people together, this practice to avoid the gathering of people at the cafe.”
What are your thoughts as France plans for a reopening?
All of us will have to agree to work even harder to pay for this devastating crisis… everyone's versatility will be essential. Definitely the return to basics, as cooking at home with fresh and local products will continue after covid-19, the culinary education will need to adapt for the future... Transformation will be necessary as many current activities will no longer be options.”
Italy – Executive Chef Giuseppe Buscicchio
What phase of the crisis is Italy in currently?
“Currently the Italian restaurant market is totally blocked and will be at least until May 4th, from that date onwards, there will be intelligent reopenings, that is, in groups based on the type of activity, restaurant and hotel activities will be the last to reopen so they will certainly not start again before June.”
What will the restaurant industry look like in June?
“No decrees have yet been issued by the state of what rules the restaurants will have to implement when they reopen, surely one of the many will be the distance of at least 1 meter away and consequently a drastic decrease in seating for the premises, therefore lower earnings and lesser staff. Menus will be shorter and more essential. The service will be done through trolleys to avoid contact with customers.”
Spain – Executive Chef Peio Cruz
How do you see the restaurant landscape when restrictions are lifted?
“Store-rooms will be depleted. Less number of customers and less money each ticket. Sadly, many restaurants will not reopen, and many bills and salaries will not be paid. Local producers and fresh products will become more appreciated and there will be a return for local recipes vs exotic (global) food. For sure will be some action to take for hygiene and safety in the dining room (distance, no cash, packed cutlery, gloves, masks, …). There will be some action to take for hygiene and safety in the kitchen perhaps individual portions, strict food safety control and traceability. Hotels and buffets will be very much affected: late re-opening, summer season affected, buffets need to change disposals of cutlery, plates, food, sauces, avoiding the contact probably a return of personalised table service.”
UK – Executive Chef Alex Hall
What does the restaurant industry look like post crisis in the UK?
“Business models will need to change – we have seen restaurants that have “closed” reopen as greengrocers or butchers to help support the community whilst the supermarkets were struggling to cope with the surge in demand. I’m sure that anyone looking to reopen will do so with a contingency plan of deliveries and takeaway offer – especially if they do open with restricted seating. Pubs will need to change their model. Drinks led pubs were rare before this so I would imagine they will no longer exist. The food offer will need to be adapted and there will be less staff support.”
At the end of the day, as a global community committed to delighting guests and doing what we love, we will all get through this together.