Coming on the heels of yesterday’s guest commentary at Food & Dining Magazine (Restaurateur Chad Coulter on beating COVID and reopening Kentucky) comes this far-ranging piece at Eater: There Will Be No Grand Reopening for Restaurants.
Apart from widespread uncertainty about the future of the hospitality sector, writer Caleb Pershan draws no obvious conclusions in a well-chosen survey of testimony from across the nation.
These sentences perhaps come closest.
Chef Dan Barber, famous for his tasting menus at Blue Hill and Blue Hill Stone Barns (in New York), seems to agree. “We will not be returning to normal even when we’re allowed to,” Barber told Time. “The idea that people are going to be spending money in restaurants is preposterous. We’re headed for an enormous recession.”
The word “preposterous” suggests the utterly absurd — and we might discover that the “new normal” seems to be lifted straight from the pages of science fiction … or was that George Orwell?
(The) possible new normal for the U.S. is already underway in areas that experienced COVID-19 before North America, such as China. There, restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten reopened his businesses in Shanghai and Guangzhou at the end of March. “When you walk into the restaurant, it’s all government rules — there are a lot of restrictions,” says Vongerichten. “Taking the temperature from all the chefs, taking temperature from the customers as well; no table bigger than four, spaced six to eight feet between tables. Nobody touches money, so people go to an app for the restaurant on their phone, the waiter just brings wine, water, and food.
“It’s very limited, restricted, but it seems to be working,” Vongerichten says. Business in China is back about 40 or 50 percent, he estimates. But the strangest change is the sound: Nobody talks to anybody, and it’s deathly quiet in the dining room.
“I hope we don’t have to do all that here [in the U.S.],” says Vongerichten. “I’d prefer not to open like that… it’s a very different model now.”