In the two months since I last wrote an editor’s letter, the entire planet has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As I write this, more than 50,000 people have died in the U.S alone.
This is a public health crisis that has led to economic calamity as well. As far as business segments go, the restaurant industry has been hit especially hard and in some truly strange and unprecedented ways. Pegged as both essential to the economy and dangerous to public health when crowded, restaurants have faced an unusual burden. Roughly 90% of U.S. restaurant dining rooms have faced some form of forced closure to comply with state mandates. A National Restaurant Association survey released on April 20 forecast that overall restaurant industry sales will decline by $240 million in 2020. Four in 10 restaurants were completely closed in April and two out of every three restaurant jobs have been lost.
Restaurants still in operation were likely already positioned for takeout or scrambled to figure it out. Some operators launched takeout efforts only to shut them down when they couldn’t make the numbers work.
No one at this magazine is in a position to predict how this will all play out — I’m just an armchair epidemiologist and economist, after all, not a real one — but rd+d will continue to tell the stories of the companies and the people living through it and, one way or another, figuring out how to survive and navigate uncharted waters.
For those scrambling to make it work, we’ve already seen some clever efforts and innovative ideas. Many restaurants now offer excess inventory as supplemental groceries to customers, and that includes everything from deli meat to toilet paper. Curbside takeout and contactless delivery have become new norms.
While we don’t know exactly what the future holds, a few industry leaders did offer their take on what’s to come. GameWorks CEO Phil Kaplan shared his refreshingly candid takes about what the pandemic means to the restaurant industry and the eatertainment segment in particular. And because not everything can be about the pandemic all the time, you’ll find some ideas and trends that will still exist when the pandemic restrictions ease. We’ve got some best practices in designing for dining on rooftops. And, given how much everyone has been stuck inside, we’re betting that the rise in biophilic design is surely to continue.
On a personal note, I hope you are safe and that the new normal that faces us all will be a good deal rosier than this current time of public health fears and economic chaos. Dining out is one of my favorite things and a key way in which I connect with other people, from co-workers to my own husband. Daily Zoom calls are novel, but I’m very much looking forward to sushi lunches and in-person Taco Tuesdays as soon as we’re all able to do so. Until then, let’s all order takeout to support the restaurant community and keep in touch remotely.
I truly hope to see many of you soon,