I am worried about the food industry post Covid19; specifically restaurants. As I write this, all restaurants are closed in Kuwait (where I got stuck during the Covid storm). In most parts of the world, restaurants are open for pick up or delivery. I haven’t sat in a restaurant in a few months and have only had takeout a few times before total lockdown happened. Thankfully I love to cook and the world-wide coronavirus pause has allowed me to cook more and post more. But eating at restaurants was one of the loves of my life; right up there with significant others, family, friends, and cats.
I would half-jokingly admit that my bank statement was basically a food diary. I have always believed that money and time spent at restaurants was money and time well spent. I enjoyed Michelin-stared fine-dining establishment, food sold illegally out of a shopping cart on a street corner, and everything in between.
The Good Old Days
Remember when you would have a craving from some good sushi, tacos, poutine, ramen, burger, or pizza and decide to go eat at a restaurant? How you would show up to that restaurant, be seated, served good food (hopefully) and sent home on a food high.
Remember when you would see a server’s faces while they spoke to you directly. When they grabbed your plates with bare hands and set them down at the table, touching your phone and cups as they rearranged the tabletop to make room for your order?
Remember when really popular eateries crammed patrons in, sitting shoulder to shoulder with strangers while enjoying delicious food? Or the hipster restaurants with communal large tables, benches, and no personal space.
The Covid Effect?
As I watch people line up to get into the supermarkets, wearing face masks and ill-fitting latex gloves I wonder about the future of restaurants. If face masks and gloves are obligatory wear in public spaces, where does that leave the restaurant experience? Looking back at how we used to dine out, I can see how it might have been unsanitary, but part of me does not want it to change.
I don’t want my waiter to look like a doctor about to perform open-heart surgery. I don’t want my table to be separated by plastic dividers from other tables; how will I stare at what they have ordered when it arrives and watch as they eat it. I don’t want the kitchen staff to be overheating and fainting from all the layers of “protective” gear they are now legally obliged to wear. What I am saying is “I don’t want to turn restaurants into sterile operating rooms.”
I don’t mind showing up to the airport 5 hours before my flight and being striped down and sanitized. I will put up with going to the mall in a bubble and not trying or touching anything. I will even observe social distancing with the world. But what scares me is the uncertainty of what will become of the restaurant world. Takeaway and delivery is great and it has its place in my life, but restauranting was a verb for me.
A Blurry Future
Will face masks be obligatory to enter a restaurant, and if so, how will I eat? Do I also have to wear cloves? Will the restaurant smell of disinfectant after every table leaves? Will my food taste of hand sanitizer?
Will a restaurant close down because someone sneezed? Will I find pieces of latex cloves under my steak or in my salad? It scares me to think that the restaurant world I once knew and took for granted is gone forever. There are clearly more questions than answers at this point. All I can do is support local businesses by ordering takeout when I can and waiting patiently during these uncertain times.