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Mitigating Dining Risk Amid Coronavirus

31 March 2020 by Food&HotelAsia

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By: Asian Consumer Intelligence

As the Coronavirus continues to wreak havoc across various industries, we witness its disastrous effect on businesses in F&B which have been forced to shut down their physical stores. For establishments lucky enough to continue operations, we see the implementation of various safety measures and practices which hope to curb contact and thus alleviate any risk of infection. Asian Consumer Intelligence reports on what players in APAC are doing to respond to this crisis.  

In Bangkok, where the government has shut down all dine-in restaurants except for those with takeaway options, coffee chain Amazon Café has suspended its promotional environmental campaign which encourages customers to bring their own reusable mugs. This announcement was made to avoid contamination of their equipment by personal cups being brought in the store. Other influential players such as Starbucks have also implemented the same controls, as disease prevention becomes priority over the environment.

Some restaurants have shifted to “virtual eateries” as they offer home delivery services instead to their customers. The Chief Executive of Thailand’s Zen Corporation, which owns food brands such as Zen and Khiang, announced that it will also offer customers within the neighborhood “the option to buy three meals on a daily, weekly or monthly basis to increase sales opportunities.” Meanwhile, Grab Thailand has adjusted its safety guidelines where contactless transactions now mean a 2-meter distance between customers and drivers and cashless modes of payment are preferred.

The situation in Manila is not much different, where restaurants such as Greenery Kitchen, a popular vegan hotspot, has switched to an “order for pick-up or delivery only” operation. Although small food businesses with brick and mortar outlets are on the losing end with operators having to continue to compensate employees with no profit during the shutdown, we see “home kitchen” players thriving with its community-based clientele due to an increasing demand for comfort food and homemade products such as breads and pre-cooked healthy meals. Independent brands which were normally only available through specialty groceries are now offering delivery options; one such brand is Take Root which just announced its delivery of junk-free snacks such as kale chips and energy bars in Metro Manila.

Heading over to Japan, we see a normally bustling cherry blossom season strangely welcomed by stretches of closed establishments and a ghost town of popular shopping areas like Ginza. Sushi restaurants have now halted their conveyor-belt operations and require customers to order through touch-panel screens instead. Restaurants with kiddie play areas have also closed down these children’s sections and are increasing cleanliness measures.

In Singapore, restaurant booking app Chope published guidelines to practicing responsible eating as the city attempts to navigate the line between offering partial services and being shut down, like many other cities at this time. It suggests to use its app to book ahead, and thus avoid crowds, dine at off-peak times and eat outdoors to ensure more air and ventilation. Like many other services, Chope encourages the usage of contactless payments, reduce interaction between staff and their customers to mitigate risk.

 So what? Recent articles published in CNN and HuffPost are addressing growing concerns over the possibility of contracting coronavirus through food and drink ordered at restaurants via delivery apps. Their expert’s findings have confirmed that there seems to be very low risk in contracting the virus from packaging or from food itself. This news should be helpful to F&B players in assuring people that it is still safe to consume food prepared outside the home, so long as they are confident of the establishment’s and delivery service’s hygiene and sanitation practices. As worldwide leaders state this situation is now a long-term environment, finding ways to thrive could be the difference to a restaurant’s long time survival.

Find more similar reports on Asian Consumer Intelligence website here.