"Carry on catering" or please sir may I take your temperature

Standing in the queue waiting ones turn to enter the supermarket allows pause for thought.I asked myself this question.Why  do we go to restaurants? We don’t just love them, we depend on them: they are an integral part of our social life, where anniversaries are celebrated and announcements are proclaimed.We go there to have fun with friends,share gossip and ruin reputations.They are an excuse for a reunion or a romantic candlelit dinner for two.Metropolitans go there for pre theatre dinner or post theatre collation.Holidaymakers check in pre beach, interim beach and post beach. We must not forget the all important business lunch or dinner either, where we strategize and put the world to rights.Well all that is going to change.This is something close to my heart and something that brings a tear to my eye,to see the impending decimation of the hospitality industry as such. Having worked in the hospitality industry for the last 25 years,the last 10 years of which in the Algarve, has made me realise the dependency and reliance on seasonal tourism.When we are finally allowed to reopen I will certainly be donning a mask for an initial period, at least when I cook for our guests.
Whether I follow fashion and don matching mask and gloves a la Helmut Lang is not the issue.Functionality is all that matters.
Hovering by the cured ham selection in the supermarket, pondering the pancetta options,it call became clear to me.Not that I needed pancetta, but casting my mind back, before I left home I had spotted 2 jacket potatoes in the vegetable rack that were crying out to be used, so pancetta was not really a store cupboard requirement.So by the by my mind turned to what sort of experience eating out will be when restaurants return to a modicum of normality again.
 With murmurs about a slow reawakening from enforced hibernation in some countries, the end of lockdown will not be the end of problems for the hospitality industry.Just when they were coming to terms with the dire consequences brought on by Brexit, the hospitality industry in every country is now under threat from a new type of catastrophe. For those restaurants that will have managed to survive,it will now be a very different ball game.Will there be any customers? There will be people who want to go out to eat, but many who have lost their jobs will be brassic.A major issue which is already being adressed is that there will still be a demand for social distancing.Among ‘exceptional measures’ being drawn up by the Portuguese authorities to ensure the safe return to business of all sectors is the requirement to take the temperatures of staff and clients in restaurants.Where once we were welcomed at the door by an Armani suited concierge now we will be welcomed by PPE coated ooooh maîtron d armed with a  thermomemeter."May I just take your  temperature sir?"
 Eating out with friends will never be the same again?

 ....or this

Does this mean restaurateurs will have to reduce their seating capacity and look into how many covers they can allow at any one time? Will kitchen brigades and front of  house staff  be obliged to wear masks? How do you keep  staff apart from both each other and customers when it comes to waiting and clearing tables, or working in the kitchen? Does this offer clientele reassurance or induce a relaxed environment to dine in,or might it drive customers away.It would also leave restaurants with nothing approaching atmosphere.How would all the counter-based tapas bars in Spain function? How would sushi bars work?
 It brings to mind a new take on when Damien Hirst opened his first Pharmacy restaurant in London in 1998,sporting an interior decorated with "Molecular structure" artworks on the wall.
 With all this time at home, many people will have learned to cook more confidently and take not only pride, but pleasure, in eating and entertaining at home.Lets face it we are going to lose many of our much loved small independent local establishments. We may well be left with only corporate chains of bars and restaurants.Portugal is talking of staggered reopening,small outfits first then larger restaurants later.What would this mean? Opening perhaps for a 3 day week or perhaps for fewer services.Might a local restaurant perhaps open once a week? We might well see a boom in takeaway and delivery services.A top restaurant in Lisbon offered an Easter lunch box scheme for two delivered to the door for € 180.This is high end catering and the brutal reality is that it will affect both proprietors and customers alike.Will we see a resurgence of restaurants where we cook our own food on a hot stone at the table? Chefs tables for tasting menus could  continue behind a perspex screen so the chef is still cooking in full few of his captive audience and will still be available to answer their questions.Will some restaurants fall in line with those that seat their customers on banquettes in booths.Wherever we end up we will most certainly be left with a gaping hole where innovative ,highly respected, world class food and drink purveyors formerly thrived.Then Brexit versus the hospitality industry will rear its ugly head again.
Eating in a restaurant may well return to how it was sixty odd years ago when I was growing up,a preserve of the privileged class.Gone will be serve yourself salad bars or the stereotypical breakfast buffet.In come supplementary takeaways and delivery services.This is the only way establishments are going to fill the gaps and maintain cashflow.The brutal reality is that no income is generated with an absence of customers and takings are reduced if capacity shrinks.The rent and overheads however still remain the same and have to be covered.By the way, rent on average is 10% of a restaurant’s turnover.
If we want them all to reopen, proprietors and customers alike need to work closely together.Customers need to give them their business as soon as they are able to do so.At the same time establishments have to address the issues of what kind of service the customer is going to need and accept in future. It’s as simple as that.Lets all work together to make the hospitality industry survive. 


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