Updated: Jan 30
Covid-19 has brought a flurry of pain and suffering to those who have contracted the virus and those around them. Unfortunately, with lockdowns in place and restaurant restrictions, we've seen countless restaurants struggle to survive or close.
As the vaccines begin to roll out, some restrictions are being lifted. This week will be a nod to all the struggling restaurants in the industry as I shed my prediction on the direction of the service industry. If you are looking to help struggling restaurants, please consider donating here.
The Beginning: COVID-19 hits
At the beginning of the pandemic, as the lockdowns began to fall into place, restaurants had no idea how long it would last and prepared for a few months of lockdown at most. Little did we know how long it would actually be and when it came time to reopen, heavy restrictions would still be in place for many states in the United States. As a result, many businesses failed to stay open and had to shut their doors for good.
I've seen that the pandemic hasn't affected all restaurants equally. Renowned award-winning chefs have had to close their restaurants. It meant almost inevitable failure for restaurants that couldn't adapt their model to take out or were dealing with unreasonable rent and COVID-19 cases among staff. It is an adapt or close your-door situation.
The type of restaurants involved also affected whether restaurants survived. A pizza restaurant is easily adaptable to takeout, whereas a traditional French restaurant would not be. Coupled with the location of restaurants, if a restaurant had high rent, with a building's owner refusing to budge on rent, it could mean near-certain failure.
What Will Happen to Failing Restaurants
We will undoubtedly see numerous more restaurants buckle under pressure and fail to survive this pandemic, and the effects will be seen several years into the future. As so many restaurants have been unable to survive, numerous restaurant locations will be open for grabs, and as many move in all at once, competition will be fierce. With fierce competition and historically low survival rates, 60% of restaurants fail in a year and 80% in five years; we will see an increase in overall restaurant failure. It's again an instance of adapting or shutting the doors.
Where will the restaurant industry be heading with all of this potential failure? While new restaurants will pop up and succeed, it'll be survival of the fittest like none other. There are also two branches of the service industry that I think will be particularly interesting to watch. One will be the rise of ghost kitchens, a take-out-only kitchen which you can read about here, and the rise of private chefs.
New Service Industry Directions: The Future
Having a private chef come into your home is safer, with less chance of catching a virus, but you can also customize and create any dish you want with your chef, AND it can be significantly cheaper if you are cooking for large parties. It's also an experience for you and any guests to appreciate in a more intimate setting. It's a service industry option that I think will grow in the many years to come; I highly recommend trying a private chef experience for yourself if given the opportunity.
With all that being said, with COVID-19 still plaguing the restaurant industry and will do so for many years in the future, it gives many of the current and established restaurants a chance to carve out a bigger slice of the pie, if you will. Now is the time to advertise and expand their customer base. Expansion is risky, as we don't know what life, including the life of restaurants, will be like post-COVID-19. We don't know what consumer tendencies will be after the big rush back to restaurants. It could be like the 1920s, with restaurants livelier than ever, but will this buzz last? And if it does, how long will it take?
My prediction is that it'll last, but not for a decade, but just a couple of years at most. The restaurant scene will be especially exciting to those stuck in lockdown the longest.
The future of the service industry hangs in the balance. Will restaurants succeed? Will a bubble of new restaurants come into play? Will we see a rise in ghost kitchens and all exciting private chefs? The truth is that no one truly knows; the service industry is in the balance and could swing everything in a new direction with the slightest gust of wind. We can only make educated predictions for the future. Nonetheless, the future is exciting, but what will it look like?
“The Flying Chef”