The pandemic has rocked the restaurant industry and showed just how agile it isn’t. Now, several months into the pandemic, we can see how the restaurant industry will be permanently changed. In many cases, the pandemic is a chance for restaurants to get inclined towards sustainability and taking their hygiene one notch up.
Diners are looking for restaurants to be transparent about their cleanliness procedures, so restaurants must use clear optics of what they are doing to keep diners safe. Customers are looking for things like single-use menus, disposable silverware, signs placed on tables that have been sanitized, hand sanitizing stations and employees wearing masks. Most importantly sustainability will take the front seat and restaurants opting for sustainable practices may gather more points in the future.
Time to give back to nature
Nidhi Nahata, Founder, Justbe Resto Cafe feels that being sustainable is a big step in the preservation of resources. “Today, people are drifting away from glamorous and blingy things and inclining more towards sustainable eating, clothing, etc. There is increased adoption of social responsibility and awareness about the importance of living with nature rather than exploiting it,” she added.
At Justbe, the team function in accordance with the environment by firstly serving food designed for the body by nature, using cutlery that is reusable, like steel straws (washed regularly), avoiding the use of plastic for dine-In, deliveries, and take-aways.
Nahata further informed that on the business front, consumers are displaying greater respect and loyalty towards brands/firms/organisations that are positive contributors to the environment. “They are consciously purchasing from positive contributors and are boycotting companies that have low-poor CSR. It is imperative to focus on sustainable efforts rather than just having a flashy appeal. The days of mindless consumerism are gone!” she stated.
Training and education comes first
The pandemic has again presented great importance on certain realms that we as a society might have ignored. First of which, being hygiene. The International standards are a great benchmark to abide by and produce dishes/food that matches consumer standards.
Ron Ramirez, owner of The Finch Chandigarh feels that in order to efficiently implement upgraded kitchen hygiene to a particular establishment especially in a third world country, proper training, strict discipline with supervision must be laid down on the table to any establishment.
“Experience people with proper training and education is crucial that practices government protocol guidelines with a regular license of food safety management system agency which is accredited by the department of health,” he said.
Evolving sanitation demands, as well as dormant dining rooms and even dormant kitchens, have given operators more challenges than ever before. Protecting their brand’s reputation while delighting their guests and optimizing operations has never been more of a juggling act. According to Measure Protocol, 86 percent of consumers say that visible evidence of cleanliness is most important to feel safe.
Kalyani Das who runs and owns the south Indian restaurant chain Dasaprakash, believes that diners look for different experiences and therefore there are segments that cater to diners looking for a swanky or fine dining experience.
Diners getting more inclined towards sustainability
“Given the current environment, there may be a trend that leans towards more sustainable formats as opposed to luxury or fine dining, but if we were to look at the future we need to assume that in some time, months or in a year India and the world will learn to work with and around this pandemic and patrons will look for different dining options. In the immediately foreseeable future, there would definitely be more focus on home delivery and casual dining as patrons adopt a more conservative approach to dining,” she said.
Sustainable restaurants will continue to grow as a segment and there will be more models that may emerge given the current pandemic. There will be a focus on hygiene, brands, delivery and innovation will occur around these areas. Das also believes that newer models of revenue share and reduction of fixed costs will emerge which will drive further expansion in this segment.
However, according to Abhayraj Kohli, Owner of restaurant brands like Tori, Grandma’s Cafe and Pritam ka Dhaba, there are trends and fads but sustainable restaurants are not one of them. “The planet needs us to respect our resources and this pandemic has taught us this. Indian being mostly a vegetarian country with more than 40 percent being vegetarians it won’t be difficult to move to mock meats etc. Hygiene standards in restaurants have been improving and especially in the organised sector restaurants can now be compared to any restaurants all over the world,” he commented.
‘Going green’, ‘Sustainability, ‘Hygiene has been a focus for the restaurant industry for over a decade now, but in recent years, with the pandemic along with dire implications of climate change becoming more evident, the mantra has come with increased urgency.