The way patrons experience dining out has changed tremendously since coronavirus cases began cropping up in the U.S.
Some restaurants that were buzzing with patrons just last week now sit empty. Others have shifted to a take-out or to-go model. Official advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and outright bans issued from municipalities have lowered the number of people permitted to gather in the interest of promoting social distancing.
There are now “contactless” delivery options. Major restaurant chains are removing seats so people can’t hang around. And the situation is continuing to evolve.
The dinner reservation app OpenTable released new data showing just how severe the situation is. Restaurant dining is down 42% in the U.S. as of Saturday, the data suggests. In states like Connecticut, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, eating out has dropped more than 50%.
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One of the primary impacts restaurant-goers might notice is just how often staff are wiping down surfaces that are touched by multiple people, according to Norris Gearhart, a disaster response consultant for the restaurant industry.
“To give people peace of mind, what they are doing is going in and doing a deep clean of all horizontal surfaces,” Gearhart said. “Then they’re consistently going back over all the nonporous surfaces with a disinfectant.”
Some restaurants are requiring all front-of-house workers to wear gloves, others are removing bar stools and some are requiring guests to pack their own leftovers.
Restaurant owners are also looking into ways to cut down on face-to-face contact between staff and patrons.
“People are less inclined to deal with cashiers and the adoption of technology is taking over,” said Sam Zietz, CEO of TouchSuite which develops checkout kiosks. He noted that some restaurant clients are putting hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes near self-checkout counters to give patrons peace of mind.
And some fast-food chains have eliminated cashiers altogether and encourage visitors to use kiosks, Zietz said.
Dining in is down
The shift in dining habits comes as several locales institute new restaurant guidelines in the wake of the pandemic, which has killed 69 people in the U.S. as of Monday.
In New York City, for example, all restaurants, bars and cafes are shifting to a food take-out and delivery only model. On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked for all restaurants to suspend dine-in services.
Massachusettes Gov. Charlie Baker ordered all dine-in restaurants to close for a month starting on Tuesday. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered a similar ban across five counties.
Owners of independent restaurants were tossed a lifeline on Monday after Grubhub deferred commission fees for impacted restaurateurs.
“Local independent restaurants are the lifeblood of our communities and we must do everything we can to get them through this time of uncertainty,” Grubhub CEO Matt Maloney said in a news statement. “With empty dining rooms, restaurants are depending on pickup and delivery orders more than ever.”
Grubhub said dine-in service is down as much as 75%.
Take-out orders are rising
While fewer people are sitting down at local restaurants, many are still grabbing fast food orders to-go, and restaurant chains are responding by modifying practices amidst contagion concerns.
The foot traffic analytics platform Placer.ai released findings on Monday suggesting nationwide traffic for Starbucks, McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A is on the rise in March.
The platform noted, however, that the data “doesn’t mean that there will be no negative effects should the virus continue to have an impact over the coming weeks and months.”
The coronavirus crisis is an evolving situation, and fast-food chains have altered their response to the illness accordingly.
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McDonald’s-owned restaurants have shut down dining rooms completely, encouraging patrons to use the drive-thru, take-out or delivery. Taco Bell announced a drive-thru only model as well.
Starbucks recently revealed plans to shift to a “to go” model at thousands of company-owned locations for at least two weeks. That means there are fewer seats for people to sit at. The company is also modifying the condiment bar and changing the way baristas handle cash.
Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown.
Source: Thanks https://eu.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/03/17/coronavirus-how-restaurants-adapting-uncertainty/5057617002/