"A lot of cooking and baking seemed to happen during Lock-down. How many people have become sourdough experts?!"
It is one thing to survive Lockdown and entirely another to recover and understand in what form recovery might take. The future is unknown to us all, that catchphrase the ‘new normal’ – who knows what that is, unless you have a crystal ball perhaps.
There have been some wonderful stories of people doing what they can to support their favourite haunts both during and post Lockdown. Of patrons requesting to purchase ‘vouchers’ during Lockdown, thus providing some cashflow, which could then be redeemed once things were up and running – a display of faith, the willingness to take a gamble and a strong desire to be able to enjoy one’s favourite dishes again. Similarly, folk supporting the ‘take-away’ endeavours of their favourite locals. Toilet paper hoarding phish! Replace that with sausage hoarding – I was regaled with the story of orders for multiple metres of handmade Toulouse sausage, normally bought at ¼, ½ or metre lengths from the pre-Lockdown menu. Gives a new meaning to ‘freezer’ dinners.
How is the restaurant scene recovering? There is much talk going on. Now that New Zealand are at Level 1, restaurants are open but as we see in the media it is too late for some, and for others, it is the hard decision – can we get going again or are we better to cut our losses…With borders still closed for an unknown time this is especially true in areas where tourism has been the revenue backbone. Domestically travelling New Zealanders and eventually, maybe Australians may not be enough. It is a time for that New Zealand characteristic of strength in ingenuity to come to the fore. A time for refocusing and reinvention.
It seems that many popular food establishments prior to Lockdown are busy again at weekends but not so much during the week. We do need to consider the usual winter pattern – things becoming quieter as fewer folk venture out on cold nights, our natural hibernation instincts perhaps compounding the difficulties and prospects of recovery. Furthermore, in uncertain times many folk who normally eat out frequently may feel a little more cautious about the future and be tightening their financial belt. The trick is to entice them out – I have noticed free glasses of wine being offered with meals, set price lunches or dinners and test menu nights. On the other hand, I have also spoken with folk who are making a concerted effort to go back to their pre-Lockdown practices and in fact to ‘spread the love’, not just going to their normal favourite but increasing the variety of places they frequent.
Changes to other areas of life during lockdown have inadvertently impacted the immediate and perhaps permanent nature and landscape of hospitality and eating out in New Zealand. There are those who are not yet feeling the need to go out as much, having reconnected with the pleasure of home-cooked food during Lock-down and enjoying the extra cash left at the end of each week. A lot of cooking and baking seemed to happen during Lock-down. How many people have become sourdough experts?! The phrase that keeps coming up in conversation is ‘old family values’. The effect of lockdown for many families was an enforced slowing down which included sharing the cooking and eating together again. Meals becoming an event and time for togetherness and rather than an interruption of individual pursuits. Might some of this continue post-Lockdown and might it influence the germination of the next generation of chefs?
Some companies are seeing and reacting to the cost saving and productivity benefits of staff working from home, including reducing the amount of office space being leased. The question has been posed as to how this may impact the hospitality scene, specifically in CBDs. Less people to stop in for an after-work or lunchtime drink and plate. Or will it encourage folk to come into the city for an evening out, with less traffic to battle, more parking available and as a change of scene from being at home or staying local. Might it also lead to a burgeoning in the numbers of local restaurants and bars within walking distance of home and perhaps the increased focus on locally sourced and seasonal food that tends to follow?
The future is indeed uncertain, somewhat daunting but also potentially very exciting and full of opportunity.
While Al’s experience is in New Zealand, we are sure that the same trends may be occurring in your markets. We would love to hear about what you are seeing and feeling. Let us know at [email protected]