There are historical moments when the future changes direction. Are we experiencing such a moment right now?
We are in the middle of a process of change that has never been seen before on this scale. And that is what makes it so difficult. We don’t have any models that we can take as examples and say, okay, here we have to do something different. Neither 9/11 nor the financial crisis had such dimensions.
What to do?
Honestly? Nobody knows. Right now the whole world is living like we are taking part in a big A/B test. Countries are dealing with the challenge very differently: From total isolation to tightly-knit testing to maintaining public life. Who did the right thing in the end? We won’t know that any time soon. Since the financial crisis in 2008, things have been getting better year after year. Until the virus came. But we are already seeing many creative ideas being implemented to ensure that social and gastronomic life does not come to a complete standstill. And yet there are still many things that are difficult for the gastronomy sector due to the ongoing closure.
Most people fear the feeling of social isolation. Let’s look at the example of eating out with friends or family . It is much more than just eating, it is social interaction. How will that look in the future?
Of course people will meet again and have dinner together. Some sociologists or trend researchers even assume that there will be a new commitment again. In other words, people will seek and deepen bonds. At the moment, however, we cannot yet estimate whether this will take place in a private setting or whether, as before Corona, it will shift back out into the restaurants and bars to the same extent. Of course I hope that people will go out eating together after Corona. Nevertheless, I think that going out to eat will look different than before the crisis. Hygiene standards, for example, will change permanently. I can also imagine that the path away from the entertainment industry will lead to low-risk socialising. The tables can no longer accommodate six or more people, but only four. And it’s no longer about the ballyhoo around it, but about good, honest food.
Will wine, beer and burgers ever taste like they did before Corona? Why should I still go out to eat?
Local production is booming, handicrafts are experiencing a renaissance, which is certainly having an impact on the gastronomy. And it is still an experience. Not a quickly consumed one, but in future the focus will be on enjoyment. And don’t forget: many people are rediscovering cooking for themselves. This means that after the crisis they will know more about food than ever before. Then cooks will finally be able to prove what they can really do.
At the same time, gastronomy is a social centre for many people. And this centre is currently in danger. We should support restaurateurs so that they can maintain the meeting places that we valued before the crisis.
But we also see a clear shift towards the big chains. These will survive and in some cases even emerge from the crisis stronger than before. At the same time, I hope that we will see small, new concepts that play the themes of regionality, quality and diversity and that we will be rewarded for this after the crisis.
The world will be a different one after Corona. What will change in gastronomy?
As already mentioned, hygiene will take on a completely different significance. Starting in the kitchen with complete documentation, as the cooking systems from RATIONAL can do, for example. Through the arrangement of the furniture to the service. A tablet PC as a menu is certainly more hygienic than a grabbed piece of paper that is handed from guest to guest and cannot be cleaned. Or a robot in the service area will certainly transmit fewer viruses than a waiter. But I can’t really imagine these scenarios yet. In addition, quality and variety will be required, otherwise fewer people will go out to eat. But there will also be standardization and correspondingly cheaper offers, because the reopened businesses must become profitable again. The question remains whether this is what the guests want. Only trial and error can help in this regard.
And what about the dishes?
The dishes will also change. Sharing plates, which have only just come into fashion in some countries, will probably soon be a thing of the past again. We can see this in China, for example. Sharing plates have always been part of the food there, but now there is far less demand for them. It remains to be seen whether this will continue. Maybe some of our dearest traditions will be lost, such as the tapas in Spain.
I am also able to get a meal in the supermarket not only in restaurants. How will that influence us in the future?
Supermarkets will continue to increase their activities: During the lockdown, many people who used to go to the canteen or eat a quick meal in the evening discovered the supermarket for themselves. So it is only natural that the range of take-away meals will also be expanded. After all, it has one big advantage: it is prepared hygienically and sold hygienically. Before Corona, a certain price sensitivity could be observed in this segment, but I think that people are now willing to pay more in the supermarket. After all, it’s all about their safety. We can at least partly understand this from the changes in behaviour due to previous food scandals.
Take a forecast for the future for us. What are your prognoses?
Eating out or being pampered is part of our lives, even in times of crisis. So it is a good development that the restaurant around the corner now also offers take-away and delivery service, which they did not do before. I would also say that a lot has happened in the area of technology and networking, because many restaurateurs have also learned to use technology better for themselves as a result of the crisis. For example, to use apps for mobile ordering or intelligent kitchen technology to replace staff who have dropped out or to switch production from Cook & Serve to Cook & Chill. Perhaps some of them are also busy networking their kitchens so that they don’t always have to be personally on site. This will certainly open up new doors for some people.
There will be restaurants, pubs, beer gardens, family celebrations and festivals again. But it will require a lot of creativity and discipline from all of us to deal with distance regulations, hygiene rules and all the other requirements. I think that manufacturers of kitchen equipment will also be needed here to provide the best possible support for the catering trade. I also believe and hope that the initial restriction and the standstill will give the catering trade a new status in the near future. Going out to eat will be held in greater esteem and restaurant visits will become a conscious pleasure, as consumers realize how much we have missed that part of quality of life.
Mr Feiler, thank you for this interview.