welcome to restaurant dining social distancing-style

Restaurants with small kitchens will need to reduce the number of staff working at the same time. Fine dining restaurants will have to simplify menus, avoiding dishes where each component is assembled by a different chef. Face masks are a given. Many restaurants are turning to delivery, at-home meal kits and other ways to reach diners.

Big Mamma Group is testing “click and collect” dishes at two of its sites, Gloria and Circolo Popolare. “The ancillary revenue from delivery, takeaway and office drops will be essential for many restaurants’ survival,” says Jacob Kenedy.

While delivery is helping restaurants stay afloat by providing some vital cash flow, it is highly unlikely to make up for the drastic fall in covers when they reopen. “Delivery will always be the icing on the cake. I imagine it will be about 5pc of total turnover,” says Gaucho’s Williams.

If the hospitality sector is to come through Covid-19 relatively intact, then delivery, table spacing, and other social-distancing concessions will not be enough on their own. Without further government intervention the best-case trading scenario for June is 24pc of sales for the same month last year. The worst? Just 4pc, warns UK Hospitality.

Restaurateurs are used to adapting, to operating on wafer-thin margins, but with social-distancing and low consumer confidence likely to depress their income for months to come, most say there’s only two things that could make a real difference: a nine-month rent holiday with corresponding protections for landlords, and an extension to the furlough wage subsidy scheme for hospitality workers.

“The next month is crucial in terms of government intervention,” says Williams. Kasumov is a touch more bleak: “The UK hospitality sector is on the brink.”

A British company whose software is used for room service in some of the world’s leading hotels says its technology could be used to reopen pubs and restaurants. 

Crave Interactive has adapted its systems, which are installed in five- star hotels such as The Lanesborough in London and the ARIA Resort and Casino in Las Vegas to let guests order food and drinks on a tablet or smartphone, so they can be used in pubs and restaurants.

The company says its ServeSafely technology would work by allowing diners to scan a QR code when they arrive, and then be directed via their phone to a table. They would be able to order and pay on their phone and be alerted to collect their food when it is ready to collect.

The software could also be used to stagger arrivals to avoid queues or overcrowding.

The proposals were submitted last week to the All Party Parliamentary Group on how the £60bn hospitality sector could respond to the Covid-19 challenge.

Jane Pendlebury, chief executive of the Hospitality Professionals Association, says the technology is something the sector really needs. “When restaurants, hotels and bars are able to reopen, the public will want something that will give them more reassurance about eating out and this is it. It seems easy to use and I am sure it will be a roaring success.”

However, the technology could raise questions about the future for the 80pc of hospitality workers who have been furloughed since lockdown was imposed.

The Government appears to be set to relax some restrictions, although pubs, restaurants and hotels could be among the last to be allowed to reopen.

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