In conversations about the ways Covid has impacted every corner of the world, the future of restaurants comes up often. Our owners work with a lot of restaurant operators, so we wanted to know: what did they think about what’s ahead for the industry?
First, there’s no sugar coating the simple reality that Covid has had a significant impact on restaurants. Between staffing shortages, local restrictions, increased costs, supply chain issues and more, the restaurant industry as a whole has taken a hit.
But here’s what we know: restaurant operators are a resilient bunch. Like leaders in many other industries, restaurant operators have been forced to reinvent themselves countless times and have seen varying degrees of success. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and operators are meeting the changing needs of customers in a variety of ways.
Here’s what we’re seeing from a construction standpoint.
Building for the future
We are working with some clients who are anticipating a strong comeback, so they are preparing now. They are using this time to build restaurants with all the bells and whistles so that when dining in comes roaring back – in a month or in a year – they will be prepared. For these clients, we are building out incredibly stunning spaces: larger footprints, more seating, exceptionally efficient kitchens, high-end finishes, etc. The clients who started building at the beginning of the pandemic are seeing the benefits of this approach now.
Building for the Now
We have other clients who are focused on remodeling their existing space or planning for their next space assuming that Covid will be ever-present for the foreseeable future. For these clients, we are looking at ways to meet customers where they are.
This manifests in several ways, and we work with landlords and individual municipalities to understand what options we have available given the unprecedented circumstances. This could include adding additional parking spots for pickups or adding bollards near sidewalk dining. Some clients are adding outdoor seating or expanding their existing patios. Others are adding drive-thrus, walk-up windows, separate pick-up spaces and/or entrances for third-party delivery services. These aren’t inexpensive changes to existing buildings, but the clients who make these changes are finding it to be a worthwhile investment in their business.
Building for Expanding Business Lines and Revenue Streams
We also have clients who have reimagined their business. One client, Katie’s Pizza, created a line of frozen foods and we built out a new frozen headquarters to drive this expanded growth. Others have found fresh revenue streams from partnering with grocery stores and delivery services for grab-and-go meals, and we’re building commissaries or ghost kitchens for those clients.
There isn’t a single approach that works for everyone, nor should there be. But when we’re asked what our outlook is for the restaurant industry, we always talk about the impressive level of grit and creativity we see from our restaurant clients. These chefs, owners and operators are smart, hardworking people who have turned their passion into a business and know how to adjust. The industry is going through a lot of change right now, but we believe once this pandemic is in our rear-view mirror, the operators that know how to pivot will come out on top.