The Coronavirus Pandemic has negatively impacted many people and businesses, and may change how we live forever. I predict that it will change how we work, how we go to school, and how we live our lives in general. People may work from home more than ever before. Kids and college students may have to grow accustomed to more school days from home. In general, people may be wearing masks in public for longer than ever expected. Although it is difficult to predict how the future will look, everyone has experienced changes in their lives due to the pandemic, and some of those changes may remain. Speaking from my own personal experience, the coronavirus has precipitated many adjustments and created economic challenges for restaurant owners and workers, and it is difficult to predict how they may continue to be impacted. However, I anticipate that the systems restaurants/bars have put in place, to encourage social distancing and reduce the spread of germs, may indefinitely remain, and the economic hardships they have experienced may also linger.
When the pandemic first began, and states prepared to quarantine, restaurants were among the first businesses to close. When it was decided that it was safe for them to open at limited capacities, it was essential that restaurants and bars implement new social distancing and cleaning policies to reassure their customers that it was safe to re-enter. The restaurant in which I work has closed every other table to provide social distancing, and has reduced the number of bar seats from 25 to 12. To reduce the possibility of contamination of frequently touched items, the restaurant has also created touchless menus using QR codes, taken all salt, pepper, ketchup and sugar off of the tables, and prohibited the refilling of glasses that have already been used, etc. Of course, regular cleaning has also been expanded significantly.
After restaurants were forced to close, some were so powerfully financially impacted that they could never reopen their doors again. Most restaurants that were able to reopen are still struggling to attract customers and keep their businesses afloat. However, restaurant closings, and reopening at limited capacities, has affected restaurant workers as well. When the restaurant I work at closed, I was worried about how I was going to pay my bills, and started a new job at an Amazon distribution center. Because restaurants were among the first businesses to close, restaurant workers were forced to find other jobs, or apply for unemployment benefits. In my case, because I had a new job at Amazon before the stimulus bill passed, I was ineligible to collect unemployment and was actually making less money than those who were able to collect it, and substantially less money than I was at the restaurant.
Although it is difficult to predict when restaurants will ever be able to operate at full capacity again, I predict that when/if they are able to, many of the policies they adopted, due to the pandemic, will remain. I believe touchless menus using QR codes will indefinitely be used by restaurants, frequently touched items like salt and pepper may no longer be kept on tables, tables and bar seats may continue to be more spaced out, customers may continue to prefer dining outdoors, and extensive regular cleaning may be maintained. I think the pandemic has made restaurant owners, workers, and patrons realize that some of these new policies may be helpful to reduce the spread of germs, whether there is an active pandemic or not.
Now that the restaurant has reopened, I have been able to leave my temporary job at Amazon. However, I am still not making nearly as much money as I was before the pandemic started. We are still operating at limited capacity, which means the potential tables and bar customers I could have at one time is still being cut down significantly. In addition, customers are still wary of going into restaurants. Although people seem to feel safer eating on the outdoor patio, it still does not get anywhere near as busy, and everyday, I have at least one customer who says it is their first time at a restaurant since March.
Although preserving pandemic-induced cleaning and social distancing methods may not be unfavorable, it still may not be enough to assure customers that it will be safe to go back to enjoying restaurants, and restaurant workers are worried about their futures. It is clear that people feel the most safe eating outside, and we are worried they will stop coming when it gets too cold. We are also concerned that if there is another spike in coronavirus cases, that restaurants will be among the first businesses to be forced to close again. We envy those who can safely work from home and do not have to worry about how they will pay their bills if their jobs close down, or how they are going to keep their businesses open.