What Will Food and Beverage at Events Look Like Post-COVID-19?
For the past few months, people have become more cautious about where they go and who they see. While some parts of daily life seem to be taking steps towards normalcy, many people are still hesitant to take the leap when it comes to gathering for events.
The hospitality and events industry is always changing, forcing properties to consistently adapt in order to stay current. In March 2020, when most of the world was placed on pause, adapting took on a whole new definition, especially when it comes to the food and beverage industry. So what will food and beverage look like at meeting and convention venues once we’re back to hosting live events again?
Here are a few changes that food and beverage is likely to experience in our new normal:
Many venues have adopted a contact-free set up that minimizes the risk of COVID-19 by reducing the number of people interacting with each other and handling the same objects. Although wearing masks and gloves was common in the food and beverage industry previously, it now sends a message that the venue is following recommended health guidelines and working to ensure guest safety.
Adhering to guidelines regarding the number of people allowed in various areas and answering questions about the actions that are being taken are also great ways to highlight how serious the venue is about safety. It’s important that guests receive the safest and highest quality service available, and that employees remain safe as well.
Meals and Buffets
The way food is served at events is experiencing changes that may outlast the pandemic. To minimize shared tools, buffets are no longer self-serve. Instead, attendants serve each guest. While this may slow line speed and efficiency, health and safety must be the priorities. Plated meals could be considered for more efficiency.
Despite the variety of a buffet, a plated meal may offer a safer and more comfortable experience because it means less movement inside the venue and less time wearing a mask. Trying both options may be a good way to see what works best at that venue.
Porcelain China Versus Disposable Plates
Selecting plates and silverware comes down to comfort and practicality. Even before COVID-19, porcelain china was, of course, sanitized before use. However, disposable plates communicate the same sense of caution that was mentioned previously. Some events may request the non-disposable option, in which case, it is crucial to provide information about the sanitation process to ensure guests are comfortable with the decision. Flexibility and the willingness to listen to people’s wants and concerns are most important.
Although many areas of food and beverage operations have changed, drink stations may be the most noticeable, as they may require the most attention in an effort to maintain safety and a sense of normalcy. Typically, people head to the bar at an event to mingle, which is not conducive to social distancing. Posting signage will serve as important reminders for those waiting to be served to maintain distance from each other.
Equally important are precautions that need to be taken behind the bar. Considering a shield over consumables and moving the drink preparation stations to the back of the bar could reduce traffic and prevent guests from standing too close. Additionally, that type of set-up may remind patrons to return to their table after receiving their order.
In most cases, the maximum occupancy count includes staff. While this may lead to the temptation to reduce the number of staff working an event, you should consider increasing the number. With new responsibilities and precautions, additional helping hands may be necessary to ensure everything operates in an efficient and timely manner. Extra assistance would also ensure that cleaning and sanitization are completed as thoroughly as possible.
Flexibility, Planning and Creativity
Especially now, it is important to have a Plan B, and perhaps even a Plan C and a Plan D. Demonstrating preparedness for unpredictability not only helps ensure events flow more smoothly, it also shows guests that you are taking everything into consideration in order to deliver the best experience possible.
Despite the challenges that COVID-19 has created, there is opportunity for growth. Practices that work better than the ones that were used before the health crisis began will likely emerge, so it’s important to keep an open mind.