There has been a lot of talk about the devastating effects of the pandemic on the restaurant industry. There is finally cause for optimism that we are moving on as the vaccine campaign is picking up pace, but something this significant will have effects for years to come. What will the long-term effects of the pandemic likely be?

One of the most important ways that the local restaurant industry managed to keep going was by being agile and adjusting to ways of working necessitated by developments, including government lockdowns, most significantly when we learnt to use new technology like food delivery apps.

There were also stringent safety measures that were put in place when restaurants were allowed to reopen. How long are these measures likely to continue? In this blog, we take a look at some predictions concerning the long-term effects of the pandemic on the food industry.

Health and safety

Since restaurants were allowed to open again, there has been a focus on health and safety. The government instituted measures to keep restaurant patrons and staff as safe as possible during the pandemic, and they have remained unchanged. Diners are returning to restaurants, and for the most part, they seem to agree that these safety measures should stay in place. So restaurants will still require diners to follow safety precautions, have staff wear personal protective equipment, space tables six feet or more apart, or communicate strict cleaning policies.

As the coronavirus is brought under control, mask-wearing and social distancing will likely not be necessary, but frequent handwashing and regular disinfection will probably become permanent. Current trends also indicate that restaurants are taking health and safety to new levels exploring ways to sanitise restaurants and kitchens using scientific methods that are still being developed.

Technology is the way forward

As previously mentioned, technology was used in unprecedented ways in the restaurant industry during the pandemic. And since restaurants were able to reopen, the technology restaurant owners put into place has continued to make things safer and drive efficiency. Restaurant owners will continue to employ innovations such as food delivery apps and QR code menus.

Ghost kitchens have also become well-established in the industry to keep up with demand as more people use food ordering technology. Customers have now become used to ordering online, and even as they visit restaurants more frequently, they will likely also keep up their online food ordering.

Robotics in the future?

Robotics offers a neat solution to a problem that all restaurateurs faced during the pandemic: serving patrons while keeping a safe distance from them. And this technology is already being trialed. Royal Palace, a restaurant in the Netherlands, uses a pair of robots as waiters to perform all the basic functions of a human employee. The robots greet customers, serve food and collect dirty dishes.

In South Africa, a Hotel Sky opened in Johannesburg in November 2020 that uses three robot assistants to wait on guests. Each robot has its own personality and is trained to serve you with all the standard concierge tasks such as handling your luggage, delivering room service and answering general questions about the hotel.

Besides being a waiter, robots can also be used for cooking or food preparation. This will be an ideal solution because restaurants can keep patron-facing staff human and consider robots to help drive efficiency in other restaurant areas. And the biggest upside for employers is that robots are not paid a salary and do not require sick leave or holidays.

Would you like to find out more about how technology is being used in our industry? Now you can immerse yourself more in the digital realm by learning about technology in the restaurant industry.