The new normal in restaurant lingo is restaurant protective products. From protective barriers, social distancing products, cashier shields and more, the list of COVID-19 restaurant protection products is on the rise. Designed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and to provide a safe-as-possible dining-out experience, many of the new restaurant supplies on the market today are being grabbed up by businesses large and small alike.
In this blog, we will look at not only how you can ramp up your safety, but what the ‘big guns’ in the industry are doing, successful innovations concocted by individual restaurant owners, and what’s on the menu for the future of food-and-beverage services.
Corona Ushers in New Restaurant Golden Standards
If you own a restaurant or work in foodservice, you already know that business success hinges on following government requirements mitigating the risk of spreading corona. Obviously, providing a clean and sanitized facility is one key in the recipe for success, as is enabling contactless services in the form of digital menus, cashless payments, and social distancing protocols for lineups and seating arrangements. Towards this end, and becoming a new means of restaurant appraisal, a slew of new restaurant protection products have hit the market, in the form of physical barriers that protect customers, and employees from the spread of the virus.
Types of Spread Protection Products for Restaurants
So, what can you do to help keep the coronavirus at bay – and away from your chefs, customers, waiters, and cashiers? Fortunately, there are now many products for you to choose from including:
- Cashier shields with or without pass-through openings
- Freestanding plexiglass and acrylic shields for dividing tables
- Seating shields
- Social distancing queuing devices and signage for safe lineups and for directives such as “Please Wear Facemask Before Entering”
- Plexiglass and acrylic sneeze guards for food protection
- Clear face shields and masks for restaurant staff
From Sneeze Guards to Restaurant Safety Shields
As a foodservice professional you know that sneeze guards have been around for decades. Created to protect restaurant food from exposure to contamination – they have transitioned over the years from flimsy, plastic structures to today’s sturdy acrylic and glass barriers. Often adding a well-designed and stylish sneeze guard can display your food in a more appealing way and even attract customers with the assurance that the food behind the structure is being protected from germs and airborne contaminants.
However, now during the age of COVID-19, the need for sneeze guards has morphed into a necessity for restaurant safety shields. Larger than sneeze guards, these shields serve as a barrier against respiratory droplets, stopping the spread of germs and viruses. Rather than just protect food, these protective shields will help protect your patrons and servers from the dangers of the spread of the virus while eating and performing various kitchen tasks. Made of acrylic or plexiglass, these easy to install shields are designed to blend seamlessly into your restaurant decor.
What to Look for in Restaurant Barriers
Here are some pointers to consider before you invest in restaurant shields. You will want to strategically place shields by the cashier, in between tables, along any bar area and other locations with face-to-face interactions. In addition, many locations have extended legal outdoor seating limits so restauranteurs can take advantage of the open air to enable diners to enjoy dining out. These structures may also require barriers at tables, as well as heaters and other gimmicks to allow patrons to relish eating out once again.
Necessity is the mother of invention and so you will find many products on the market to accommodate your restaurant’s needs. Restaurant protective shields are available in numerous size and height configurations, are easy to clean and disinfect, and provide a clear view of your patrons and staff in the new normal method of interactions. Restaurant patrons expect personal interaction and connection and these barriers can enable staff to safely engage with their customers.
As with all things restaurant, creativity is the name of the game, so now let’s take a look at what the major players are doing with barriers to protect their patrons.
McDonald’s Steps Up to the Plate to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19
Joining other major franchises such as Starbucks, KFC, Subway, Chipotle, and Pizza Express, McDonald’s is pulling out all the stops when it comes to preventing the spread of corona in its U.S. and global branches.
According to a U.S. representative in a Business Insider interview, the chain has already instituted 50 corona-preventative processes, including: Providing floor decals to encourage social distancing in lineups; making plexiglass barriers available to in-house operations; providing plexiglass inserts for takeout windows that feature holes for money and food; bolstering cleaning procedures with high-touch areas disinfected every two hours and a final disinfection at the end of each day; transforming restaurant spaces by cutting capacity or distancing tables; implementing employee and customer wellness checks at entry points; providing thermometers to restaurants; supplying masks to workers. Still other foodservices have moved to more open-plan kitchens so that diners can see the way their food is being handled.
The Latest Consumer Magnets: Creative Restaurant Protective Barriers
Imagine reopening your restaurant with yellow rubber duckie shower curtains serving as table dividers, replaced by clean shower curtains after each party’s meal… Using fishing wire to hang the curtain rods from the ceiling, this is how the Twisted Citrus restaurant in Ohio, a small breakfast business, has been successfully creating a splash and enticing consumers to flood the eatery to check out innovative efforts to keep them safe from COVID-19.
Named after its new menu addition, the Rubber Duckie Mimosa (made from champagne and blue raspberry lemonade with a yellow rubber duck floating on top), owner Kim Shapiro explains the creative social distancing strategy as follows: “Like most breakfast restaurants, we’re pretty small. We’ve got tight seating, so it wouldn’t have made financial sense for us to reopen 6 feet apart.”
Also on the pioneering landscape and debuting on a restaurant patio in Germany are hats donned by consumers with foam noodles extending out to encourage distance. And if you want to whet your customers’ appetite, pique their curiosity, and entice them to choose your eatery for their next dining-out experience, consider filling up unused tables with the likes of mannequins decked out in 1940’s attire, a successful strategy concocted by a fine-dining restaurant near Washington D.C., where seating capacity has been reduced to 50%.
New Plex’Eat Shields for Restaurants
Taking the cake, however, when it comes to standout COVID-19 protective measures, is what some are calling “The Future of Restaurant Dining.” Already in mass production in France are Plex’Eat Shields invented by Paris-based designer Christophe Gernigon. The highly stylish chandelier-like shields hang directly over each diner’s chair and work as face and hand protectors underneath which consumers eat their meal. The design also features an opening in the back that allows diners to get up/sit down easily.
Finally, to help stir YOUR creative juices in keeping your customers and staff safe from corona, consider the transparent and unorthodox zig-zag-shaped barrier made from plastic sheets and PVC pipes recently launched at the restaurant reopening of a Japanese hot spot in Bangkok.
The Affect of COVID Safety Measures on the Dining Experience
If you are thirsty for more foodservice news regarding corona, take a gulp of the following: There is a hot debate brewing amongst experts concerning the effect of COVID safety measures on the dining-out experience. On one hand, the precautions are successfully making restaurants feel safer for some customers. On the other hand, they run the risk of lowering the appeal for demographics such as young GenZer’s who are seeking company and connection in the aftermath of corona.
In the words of Viz Saraby, who specializes in retail and restaurant design: “I think the fundamental reason why people go to restaurants as opposed to ordering in and eating at home, is because of the vibe of the restaurant… So these solutions deal with social distancing, but the consequence is maybe missing the mark in terms of creating that feeling of being together, even though you don’t know the other people in the restaurant.”
Echoing his sentiments is Chef Shaun Rankin. The manger of the Chef’s Table, as well as several teaching restaurants for students, Rankin claims that safety precautions such as temperature checks and pre-screenings of patrons before they walk in the door can really dampen the mood of the dining experience: “We lose the spontaneity of just going out and grabbing a bite. It’s going to have to be thought out, reservations made, and just the organization of going out and dining will obviously change the feel for the customer.” On the other hand, he also proposes that some of that lost ambience can be recaptured with décor and a dollop of creativity.
Summing Up: Your Recipe to Success Despite Corona
As you prepare to keep your foodservice open during the ‘Age of Corona,’ here are some ideas that are keeping diners safe around the world. Close your eyes and imagine grabbing a bite to eat with your friends while seated under a plexiglass bubble… or surrounded by a large rubber tube to create distance… or seated next to a party of adorable teddy bears…
The possibilities are limitless!
Good Luck and Stay Healthy