• Roma Beke

How has the Covid-19 pandemic transformed the global restaurant industry?

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way restaurants operate. With restaurants around the world having closed or downsized, the remaining businesses must adapt in order to stay competitive. How have culinary enterprises evolved to succeed in these unprecedented times?

The Covid-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-COV-2 virus has altered the global restaurant industry in both alarming and unprecedented ways. Before the pandemic, the worth of the international restaurant industry was estimated at 3.5 trillion USD, with “food demand […] rising in tandem with the global population” (NewsWire Press, 2013). Now, restaurants around the world have been forced to close down, declare bankruptcy, or downsize, resulting in the ironic consequence of food workers going hungry themselves as they experience the aftermath of economic damage. In fact, “two out of three restaurant employees have lost their jobs” (Pavlofsky, 2020) in 2020 in the United States alone. In order to stay afloat, the restaurants and chains which remain have had to change the ways they operate, focusing on “customers with a safety-first mindset” (Nowak, n.d.). Thus, how exactly have restaurants evolved to be competitive in our new pandemic normal?

Firstly, the pandemic has shifted the way that restaurants serve food to customers. For example, drive-throughs have proven quite popular for customers who crave fast food but who are worried about a lack of social distancing in in-person venues (Yaffe-Bellany, 2020). Moreover, take-away and delivery services have moved into the industry, while for some businesses, in-person eating is either being restricted or gradually phased out. According to a survey of 2,000 adult participants performed in the United Kingdom, “almost 80% of respondents knew of at least one local business that had adapted to their offering to takeaway or delivery as a result of being forced to close their operations” (BigHospitality, 2020). Restaurants are realizing that if they want to survive, they have to adapt to what customers are currently looking for, which are safety and peace of mind. This adaptability is possible due to technology, as delivery apps like Uber Eats, FoodPanda, or Just Eat “support a safe and contactless food delivery as well as provide comprehensive management capabilities that increase sales” (Nowak, n.d.). The latter point is key as the restaurant industry strives to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Of course, not every restaurant wants to morph into a delivery service. For many customers, the desire to dine out at a restaurant isn’t limited to the food itself. The restaurant industry is driven by creating memorable and enjoyable experiences, and serving food is only a small part of that. People eat out because they want to try new cuisines, spend time with friends and family, or celebrate significant life milestones. After all, it isn’t a coincidence that restaurants are often the setting of birthday parties, wedding receptions, and graduation celebrations. For these reasons, some restaurants have decided to utilize “dine-in contactless services” (Nowak, n.d.). These involve elements such as virtual menus and mobile payment, alleviating customers’ fears of having to touch shared objects (Nowak, n.d.). Online reservation platforms are also helpful, as they can “decrease crowding and guest wait-time […] For example, when a table is ready, guests can receive a notification instead of having to stand in line” (Nowak, n.d.).

While it is likely that the current situation is a temporary one, as a Covid-19 vaccine is likely to arrive at some point in 2021, what is less predictable is whether the changes to the restaurant industry will be permanent. Here is to hope that human beings’ cravings for social experiences and communal bonding will inevitably revive the culinary world!

Written by: Roma Beke

Three elements for Instagram

The main idea: The Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged the global restaurant industry, forcing restaurants to choose between evolution and closure.

A gripping number: In the United States alone, two out of three restaurant employees have lost their job in 2020.

A catchy sentence: The restaurant industry is driven by creating memorable and enjoyable experiences, and serving food is only a small part of that.


BigHospitality. (2020). Food delivery and takeaway “essential” during Coronavirus pandemic. Bighospitality.Co.Uk. https://www.bighospitality.co.uk/Article/2020/04/02/Food-delivery-and-takeaway-essential-during-Coronavirus-pandemic

NewsWire Press. (2013). Global restaurant industry to be worth $3.5 trillion by 2016. https://www.newswire.com/press-release/global-restaurant-industry-to-be-worth-3-5-trillion-by-2016

Nowak, M. (n.d.). How the restaurant industry changes due to the Covid-19 pandemic? Monterail. Retrieved November 27, 2020, from https://www.monterail.com/blog/restaurant-industry-covid

Pavlofsky, J. (2020). 40 restaurant industry statistics to consider in the wake of covid-19. SevenRooms. https://sevenrooms.com/en/blog/40-restaurant-industry-statistics-to-consider-in-the-wake-of-covid-19/

Yaffe-Bellany, D. (2020). Drive-throughs are now a lifeline for fast-food chains. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/01/business/coronavirus-fast-food-drive-throughs.html

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