Restaurants all around the world are faced with uncertainty, change and challenges. In the UK, whilst we don’t yet know when we will reopen, or under what restrictions, there are some early signals from elsewhere that point to a sustained new reality in supply chains, regulation and customer demand.
We all know the industry is under excruciating financial pressure, and is understandably lobbying hard for a speedy return to business as usual possible for the sake of people’s jobs, businesses and livelihoods.
However, it’s an uncomfortable truth that business as usual for the sector, far too often relies on poorly paid people, creates mountains of food waste, and supplies too much salt fat and sugar, and food that denudes our planet, driving the climate emergency and loss of biodiversity.
As operators, doubling down on all this for the sake of survival is unlikely to achieve it for very long. At the Sustainable Restaurant Association, we’ve been asking ourselves how do we do better than return to normal? How do we find a slither of opportunity in all this destructive disruption to create better outcomes for people and planet from the sector within the significant constraints we face?
Customers are likely to want different things. As marketeer Sophie Cross suggests: “they will have new priorities, lighter pockets and be digitally dependent. We will have to learn how to fulfil their greatest desires all over again”.
The public at large will view restaurants differently. Most immediately, there will be a need to protect safety and social distancing. Longer term, it’s likely the scale of the subsidy given to the sector, and growing awareness of its supply chain impacts will create an increased demand for restaurants that return social value and public benefit.
Over the past two months, even with both hands tied behind our backs the sector has done what it always does – thought on its feet and adapted. At the Sustainable Restaurant Association, we help operators make better decisions. For those of us trying to create a better food system, and a more resilient businesses, this is a rare moment. We must take this opportunity to ReOpen Right.