The New World of Restaurants


s restaurants are beginning to reopen around the country it is clear that the restaurant of yesteryear is gone, perhaps forever.  When you screw up your courage and venture out of your secure nest for lunch or dinner at your favorite haunt be prepared.  Here are just a few of the changes that you are likely to face.

Restaurants that didn’t take reservations before will now require them.  This will allow the facility to control crowding and social spacing.  Waiting areas will be strictly policed and you may even have to wait in your car.

Expect to see, over time, more automation.  Apps for ordering, ordering kiosks, and hands-free food delivery.  There will also be more robotic work in kitchens that have limited and repetitive menus as seen in fast food operations.

Seating limits of 6 per table/booth and dividers between tables.

As restaurants remodel look for more hard surfaces like glass, stainless steel, and tile.  Carpets and cloth-covered seating will go away.  Table cloths and cloth napkins will be a rarity too.

There will also be a push for disinfecting products that have no smell.  After all, who wants to sit at a table that smells like the inside of a Clorox bottle?  However, until such products are available that smell may be something you will need to endure.

Throw away/single-use menus and wine lists will be replacing those nice leather menu holders.

Salad bars, cafeterias, and buffet operations will disappear or be replaced by one where an employee serves you.  No self-service with many people touching the same serving pieces.

You all remember a few years ago when fuel prices went up like a rocket.  Everyone from utility companies to trash trucks, to a lawn service, to anyone and everyone else that used gas or diesel added a fuel service charge to their bill.  Many like long haul freight companies did it, you just never saw it.  Of course, those fuel surcharges never went away even when fuel prices dropped.  Well, now we are going to see this magic act again.

Restaurants will be adding a virus surcharge to their bills.  This will be to cover increasing food costs and cleaning costs.  Some restaurants will increase menu prices vs. showing the surcharge as a line item, but you will pay higher prices in any case.

So, whether you frequent casual dining, fast food places, or fine dining, your next dining experience isn’t likely to be the same as it was a few months ago.  You will probably have some 30-40% fewer restaurant options too.


Ken Vincent
Ken Vincent
KEN is a 46 year veteran hotelier and entrepreneur. Formerly owned two hotels, an advertising agency, a wholesale tour company, a POS company, a leasing company, and a hotel management company. The hotels included chain owned, franchises, and independents. They ranged in type from small luxury inns, to limited service properties, to large convention hotels and resorts. After retiring he authored a book, “So Many Hotels, So Little Time” in which he relates what life is like behind the scenes for a hotel manager. Ken operated more that 100 hotels and resorts in the US and Caribbean and formed eight companies. He is a firm believer that senior management should share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of management.

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  1. Fabulous pointers Ken! Pre-informed is pre-warned. Customers will need to work around these.

    An award-winning, celebrity restaurateur with Italian restaurants in India and Milan has started a new venture. A DIY dine-out concept. She has presented a menu from where guests and choose the dish. She then sends a DIY Kit along with the instructions and ingredients and folks can enjoy a superlative meal in the safe confines of their home.

    I think a lot of businesses will get serendipitous and creative too!

  2. Great info here, Ken — I’m actually one of the few who rarely eats out, much preferring to cook my own meals. That said (or written), I have gotten Thai takeout a couple of times recently … helping our local Thai restaurant stay in business and getting food I wouldn’t make for myself.

    Sigh. Who could have imagined this? Seriously?