Hospitality in the Social Distancing Era: Key Changes and Opportunities

Thursday, September 24, 2020

As we all navigate our way through the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the new reality of social distancing, hospitality venues across the country are reopening and facing several changes and opportunities. 

This article looks at social distancing opportunities and ideas; new delivery and payment options and technological advancements available now and in the future that can improve your hospitality offering. 

How is social distancing changing pubs and restaurants?

Businesses across the globe are fighting to stay afloat during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shutdowns. Owners are doing their best to adapt to government restrictions and find creative ways to reach their customers. In Australia and New Zealand, though we’ve fared better than many other countries, we are still impacted by local restrictions and the push to stop the spread.

For those in the hospitality industry, there is a good chance you are wondering how to best manage the changing requirements and keep your business as profitable as possible while also keeping everyone as safe as possible.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said many in the industry were "creative and entrepreneurial" and continued to look for opportunities even in the most challenging times1

As all places that serve food need a COVID-19 Safety Plan to operate, it’s a good framework for breaking things down. The four key categories in the Safety Plan checklist include the wellbeing of your staff and customers, physical (or social) distancing, hygiene and cleaning, and record keeping.

While each one of these categories need to be addressed, the one that can cause the most amount of change and headache for restaurant managers is meeting the social distancing requirements.

Social distancing in New Zealand

COVID-19 is an ever-changing situation, and it is important to be flexible and adapt to restrictions so you can continue to work within the limitations and support your business. To find the latest advice, please visit your local government website. With New Zealand leading by example, Auckland is at Alert Level 2 and the rest of New Zealand is at Alert Level 1.

For Auckland, this means that gatherings can include up to 100 people. For the rest of New Zealand there are no limits on gatherings although the following should continue:

  • Sign into places, using the NZ COVID Tracer app or keep a record
  • Maintain good hygiene practices
  • Stay home if you’re unwell and get a test
  • There are no physical distancing requirements at Alert Level 1, but the more space there is between people, the harder it is for the COVID-19 virus to spread. Therefore it is encouraged that venues encourage physical distancing where practical

Social distancing ideas & opportunities

Cafes, pubs, and restaurants are all finding their own ways to stay in touch with customers despite the social distancing requirements and capacity limits. Cafes and bakeries are selling their signature foods and ‘secret sauce’ condiments.1 Bars are offering delivery drink packages such as DIY mixers for their customers.

Restaurants are doing something similar by bringing the experience to their customers with meal delivery kits. It is a gourmet and elevated experience to the trending home meal kits. By pre-packaging food in the perfect portions and providing simple directions, people can get their food freshly made – just as if they were at the restaurant. Some places, like Mr Wong in Sydney, even go so far as providing their own playlist to recreate the ambiance.2

Other restaurants are embracing the social distance guidelines by installing domes or pods around each customer. A restaurant in Thailand added cartoon dragons to block seats and another added mannequins to the empty tables.3


Tech opportunities

Another way to encourage social distancing is by incorporating touchless technology.

A recent study by Mastercard covering 19 countries found more than three quarters of people are now using contactless payments.4

82% of those questioned claimed for them contactless was the ‘cleaner way to pay’ and three quarters claimed they’ll continue to use the option once the pandemic is over.4

With a desire to now reduce queuing times and unnecessary human contact, speed is seen as an additional benefit, enabling customers to get in and out of stores faster and limit interaction.

Many restaurants are discouraging cash payments or might even reject them entirely to minimise the contact with staff. Some locations are also implementing online ordering by creating their own menu app so customers can order straight from their table.


Adopting food delivery

As customers have increased their take-away and delivery habits, this is is a massive opportunity for restaurants and pubs to stay accessible and adapt to the changing demands as food delivery was up 351% by the end of August 2020.5

If you are looking to take your menu online, it is probably best to offer a limited one. This will make it more practical for your staff to handle and will ensure your customers are satisfied with your food. When deciding what from your menu you should offer, a couple questions to ask yourself include:

1. What are your most popular dishes? Offer your most popular dishes that new and existing customers will be keen to try.

2. Will the food travel well? Keep in mind the extra time to deliver from your kitchen to their table. Will the food get too cold, soggy or melt?

3. What dishes have the highest margins? Food delivery can take a cut of the cost, so make sure that the food you are delivering still makes a profit.

If you want to learn more on how Covid-19 has impacted the food service industry, click here.

While the current environment can be challenging for the hospitality industry there are a range of initiatives business owners have taken to continue to maximise opportunties and profits. Talk to our team and find out how they can continue to help support you while you make your way through the current climate,








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