It’s official: tomorrow the hospitality industry in England will be officially back for dine-in service.
But what that exactly looks like is anyone’s guess, with operators having to significantly redesign premises to ensure front and back of house are Covid-safe – and every site is different.
The change to ‘1metre-plus’ social distancing will undoubtedly help to keep foodservice sites in business that would have been almost impossible to run profitably with the 2metre limit still in place, but as there still seems to be differing scientific views about which distance to apply, I think it’s only wise to cautiously welcome this development with the caveat that we mustn’t sacrifice diners’ health on the altar of money.
Hopefully the big restart will see custom trickle back through the supply chain now though. In my recent conversations with dealers and servicing companies, they are expecting a massive spike in work at the beginning of this grand reopening process, so I hope you are all revved up and raring to go out there, because you could be rushed off your feet for a while.
There are other elements of the industry where the accelerator pedal has been applied too. The trend towards delivery and dark kitchens (communal cooking sites for several delivery-only foodservice brands) has expedited, along with remote equipment monitoring and the concept of smart kitchens in general.
And while these positives have advanced, unfortunately so have the negatives. Any catering equipment industry company that was struggling before the lockdown is likely to be in dire straits now. Even those who were doing well have been forced to make staff redundant, and it is a worry that there will be a massive brain drain from the sector if the jobs just aren’t available right now. Granted, some of the lay-offs may be temporary, if kitchen design and equipment demand rises along with foodservice site custom in the coming months, but it may be too late to retain these talented individuals if they are snapped up by other sectors.
Flexible furloughing is hopefully going some way to plugging the gap, but I was very impressed with one of CEDA’s latest initiatives, cedaRetain, which aims to keep the talent within the industry by showcasing individuals’ profiles to its members in the hope that they can offer them gainful employment. And with registrants given free of charge access to the trade body’s e-learning platform, they can focus on professional development while they are hopefully being hired, it’s a win-win.
Here’s hoping that all these green shoots mean we are collectively on the up-and-up, because I don’t think any of us want to deal with many more bad tidings than we’ve had to face already.