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Viewpoint - June 2020

The New Normal

By Bob Gershberg, CEO/Managing Partner, Wray Executive Search

Life may never be quite the same but clearly the restaurant industry going forward will look measurably different. Innovation, creativity, reinvention, and revised operating methodologies are the requisite actions to the COVID-19 crisis. In a consumer driven industry, it is the consumer who will drive many of these changes.  Behaviors, needs, and reactions will determine what we do next. We are entering into a different operational and technological restaurant landscape and must move quickly to survive and thrive in the new world of personal safety and social behavior.

Curbside pickup will become part of virtually every full-service operation. Apps will allow for ordering, payment, communication, and pickup with the goal of minimal contact between patrons and staff.  Off premise was a strong trend pre-COVID which has now moved lightyears ahead.

No-touch protocols for quick-service and fast casual drive thrus, will include ordering on an app and driving through, no-touch payment at the window, improved window-side sanitization practices, and likely the continued use of gloves.

Expanded sanitization standards for employees will be put in place. Simply having a sign that says "employees must wash hands" will no longer cut it. In our post-COVID world safe-handing/no-touch protocols will become the norm. Masks and gloves may well be here to stay. New training requirements for employees on sanitization and food handling will be a must. Self-serve food will be a mere memory. Existing self-serve condiments, beverages, and touchscreen ordering platforms will need to be modified. We will likely see beverage machines either go back behind the counter or be redesigned to be no-touch. Buffets and salad bars will disappear entirely. Portion control condiments will be the standard, and these will be kept behind the counter and added upon request. Consumers will evaluate options and experiences based on a broader set of criteria with greater emphasis on ease of ordering, pickup and delivery options, food safety, and sanitization.

Attracting and retaining great employees will be even more crucial in an environment that requires expanded sanitization and food safety protocols and in operations that require fewer staff that need to know and do more. The COVID situation may create a short-term labor surplus but hiring the best will be even more crucial than ever. Folks who can think “outside of the box” will be at a premium in a post-COVID environment. Expect to see expanded benefits and perks offered, such as broader healthcare, daycare, free/discounted employee meals for off-shift hours and family take-home meal discounts. Wages will go back to being based on skillsets, handling multiple stations and reliability as opposed to simply a way of attracting and retaining people.

Nurturing a next new normal that will be better than what it replaced will be a trying long-term test for all companies in all sectors. It will be mission critical to reconstruct well for the future.


All the best,

Bob Gershberg |CEO|Managing Partner|

(888) 875-9993 ext 102

Finding tomorrow’s leaders today!

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