Some industries have been hit especially hard in 2020, but perhaps none more so than city restaurants during coronavirus. The initial lockdown phase left many of them permanently closed, but reopening has brought a new set of challenges.
The landscape has completely changed and for many business owners the outlook isn’t pretty. So many of the factors are out of their hands, and don’t look likely to change for most of 2020 at least. Some states and local authorities are helping out, but with such huge problems stacking up, many city centre restaurants are going to find it tough to survive.
Here’s some of the factors that are changing the dining scene:
1. Work From Home
Office blocks all over the world are still empty , as any consumer who is able to work from home is being encouraged to do so. This has had a devastating effect on city centre restaurants, bars and cafes.
Lunch-time trade has all but vanished, with people making their own food at home or popping to local cafes in the suburbs. Also, the fact that corporate dining would usually be a huge earner for city restaurants. This sort of business meet up has largely moved to video conferencing.
Many customers would stay on for after work drinks, food or entertainment in the city centre but it could be a while before those habits come back midweek. For now, at least, many offices remain empty.
2. Lack Of Tourists
International travel is pretty much still at a standstill, compared to previous levels. Venues in areas that typically have high tourist footfall are finding it especially tough and will continue to do so for at least the rest of 2020.
While domestic tourists are taking staycations and exploring their own countries, they are opting for large open spaces rather than confined cities.
This double whammy of people fleeing cities and no new outsiders arriving has been especially painful for city restaurants during coronavirus.
3. Lack Of Live Events / Pre-Theatre Offers
Any trip into a city centre to the cinema, events, concerts or the theatre would very often be accompanied by a meal. The food aspect of a night out is very much a part of the experience.
With bars and live venues being among the last to be allowed to open, this has had a huge knock on effect on restaurants. There are multiple examples of nightlife being the source of new outbreaks around the world. The restrictions on the industry are therefore likely to remain tight.
Nightlife is a major attraction in the city centres of the world. With it curtailed, consumers are just not as excited about heading for the city centre.
4. Lack Of Atmosphere
Even if you want to support city restaurants during coronavirus, the experience just isn’t the same. Reduced numbers, masks, distancing and a whole host of regulations have changed the buzz of eating out.
While the food is a big part, so is the atmosphere. The whole buzz of a room packed with people with music and alcohol flowing. It is an entire experience that has been ripped apart and restaurants are often the ones that rely most on the atmosphere.
5. Social Distancing
This doesn’t just relate to the experience of eating in the restaurant itself. Even getting to a city centre is enough to put most people off.
Large urban spaces typically are hard places in which to social distance. There has been a huge drop off in the use of public transport as people stay closer to home in the suburbs. This is true for working hours and at the weekends. Some city centres have turned into ghost towns during midweek evenings.
6. Restrained Consumer Spending
People are still keen to eat out and there has certainly been buoyancy in the market as lockdowns have lifted. People have wanted to escape the house for so long, but it is often short lived.
With many people losing their jobs or furloughed, the luxury of eating out in city centre restaurants (with city centre prices) just isn’t there for many. A more worrying fact is that consumers who do have money have now started saving at record levels. This is down to a simple hoarding mentality; people think that there may be more financial pain ahead.
With the pursestrings tightened, there are cheaper places to have a treat than your usual favourite city centre restaurant.
Ultimately no matter how many safety precautions are put in place people are still scared. This is especially true of more vulnerable people in the community or older customers.
People are being told to limit their contact with others and to be cautious. While a birthday or special occasions might once have been celebrated in a city centre restaurant in a large group, it is now more likely to happen at home.
Many are throwing caution to the wind and the pace of recovery differs all over the world. Having said that, the fear factor is still huge and still very much there.