We all joke about rushing the barricades and beating down the doors of our favourite cafes and restaurants (after the beauty salons of course) when they finally reopen. But what will Doha’s dining scene look like after the dust settles?
As we begin to eat out again when restaurants reopen, the question will not only be about the food, but about what steps the restaurant has taken to ensure the health and safety of diners.
One thing is certain, it won’t be the same. But how will it have changed?
1. Fewer outlets
The sad reality is, many smaller (and maybe some bigger players) won’t be able to survive this period. Already, we have seen Gordon Ramsay close his restaurants in Doha (although whether this is COVID-19 related is unclear). Others might follow suit.
2. It will take time…
You can’t just flip a switch and everything will go back to normal. Many hotels and restaurants have put staff on leave and many have returned to their home countries to ride out the COVID-19 storm. Outlets have been mothballed. Stores not replenished. It takes time to fire up, get cashed up and start operations again. Some venues will have to completely re-design their layouts to ensure social distancing. We all need some patience. It will be a slow roll-out to help people adjust to a new, weird way of life.
3. Takeaway and delivery will remain popular
We all enjoyed the pivot many restaurants, including big players, made into home delivery and takeaway. And with delivery platforms stepping up their hygiene and safety practises, it will remain a go-to option for many people. It also showed us that the restaurant experience, food-wise, can be replicated at home.
4. Disposable and digital menus
I hate iPad menus but they are now here to stay because they can be sanitised between each use. I know some restaurants are also working on Q Codes for menus, so guests can scan the code and view the menu on their own phone. Some restaurants are also working on offering single-use disposable paper menus for diners. In this vein also expect the demise of crisp white linen napkins – many are looking to use disposable, high quality paper ones.
5. RIP Brunch as we know it…
Sorry guys. This one hurts. Gone are the days of the endless buffets of fresh seafood and sushi and more. A la carte is the the way of the future. It’s cleaner, safer and frankly results in less waste – so that’s the bright side! And many of the big hotels have already pivoted pre-COVID to be more about table service than the buffet.
6. Waiters in masks/shields
When restaurants are open, service staff also need to be protected. So expect masks, gloves and even face shields. Some outlets will also install dining pods or shields to enforce social distancing.
7. Reservations required
To maintain social distancing restaurants will have to restrict numbers, so it’s call ahead or expect a wait at some of the more popular restaurants and bars.
8. Contactless Dining
Many places and food delivery apps will not accept cash or will even ask for payment in advance. It’s cleaner, safer and quicker. We can expect to see increased spaces between tables, eliminated host stand waiting areas, reductions of bar seats and even entirely new layouts for restaurants to ensure this.
9. Limited menus
This is for two reasons. One is to enable a gradual return that doesn’t stretch resources. Also, in many cases, hotels and restaurants need to reactivate their supply chains – this takes time.
10. No app no dine
Love or hate it, the Ehteraz app is here for a while. Like supermarkets, banks and government buildings, expect restaurants to jump on board and ask to see the app as well.
11. Sanitiser Stations
We may not have sanitiser sommeliers like some restaurants overseas, but expect a ritual hand washing before entering an establishment.
The good news is that many hotels and restaurants I spoke to do not plan to increase prices. They know that many are hurting post-pandemic and this is already a price-sensitive market. It will be also interesting to see how many hotels and bigger restaurants handle valet parking – in some countries they sanitise the steering wheel, etc.
But while the restaurants and cafes will be going out of their way to woo us, as diners we have some responsibilities too:
- Show up: If you book, have the courtesy to turn up. Many restaurants will likely be operating on reduced capacity so seats will be limited. Your punctuality (yes I know Doha dwellers are famously late) is going to be important.
- Be patient: This is new territory for all of us and restarting takes time and effort. Things will take time to bounce back and there will be glitches.
- Tips: Many service staff have been on unpaid leave and they will appreciate the extra thought.
So who is ready to get back into it? Will you you busting down the doors or waiting and watching? Regardless, cheers to the brave new dining world!
Author: Rachel Morris, Life on the Wedge