Will restaurants ever be the same again?Published on April 30, 2020
Since the world went into lock-down in March, the doors of the 25,000+ restaurants in the UK have remained firmly shut. The key questions now being asked by many of us are “How many will ever open again?” and for those that do manage to open, “Will it be the same as it was before?”
Most restaurants, even apparently successful ones, run on a very tight financial model, riding seasonal waves of trade. There is very little capital held in each restaurant business so most were financially fragile even before the virus struck. The UK Government scheme to pay 80% of staff wages softened the immediate financial crisis of a shut restaurant with zero revenue. However, for the restaurant owners with rent and bills still to pay, even with government loans, the consensus is many won’t be able to last more than three to six months.
Those that do survive the closing may not be able to survive the reopening. There will be the additional cost of the restocking of ingredients and then there’s the question of whether they will still have staff, many of whom come from the likes of France, Italy, Spain and further afield and who have gone home for the lock-down.
Then there are the next questions: “What will restaurants be like when they do reopen?” and “Will there be any customers?”
In the US, Governor Gavin Newsom of California, conceded recently, when asked about the post lock-down world in his US state, “Normal will be a relative term for a while, and will likely feel quite a bit weird. In fact, normal is likely to be anything but. You may be having dinner with a waiter wearing gloves, maybe a face mask, a dinner where the menu is disposable, where half of the tables in that restaurant no longer appear, where your temperature is checked before you walk into the establishment.” Sounds delightful!
Will people who have spent the previous 3-6 months becoming expert home chefs rush back to restaurants staffed by people wearing masks and gloves – or will they perhaps discover that staying at home and cooking themselves with a good bottle of reasonably priced wine is the preferable option?