Understanding the Force Majeure Clause and COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has left many restaurants fighting for their survival. But as the curve flattens with each passing day, the end of the COVID-19 crisis may be in sight. Social distancing measures are slowly but steadily relaxing. In time, restaurants will be granted permission to open up their dining areas once more.
But as the end of lockdown draws near, it’s becoming clear that things will never be the way they used to. A crisis of this magnitude has the potential to reorder society in unexpected ways, for better or worse. When it comes to restaurants, especially, the reality is that we’ll be feeling the aftershocks of COVID-19 for months, if not years, from now.
When the time comes for a new wave of dine-in traffic, restaurants of every size will be forced to face the next major challenge: addressing health and safety concerns. The reality is, restaurants will have to work harder than ever before to enforce the pristine standards of cleanliness that customers have come to expect.
The COVID-19 Dining Experience
Without a vaccine at the ready, the virus has the potential to reappear at any point. As we emerge from lockdown, we can expect to see dining tables spaced two metres apart and servers with gloves and masks on. But will that be enough to convince customers?
Recent weeks haven’t been easy. Once a routine errand, even grocery shopping has become a stressful and taxing experience, especially when the next person in line invades your personal space (now measured in metres).
People are still on edge. Sixty-eight percent of Canadians admit that they’ll be nervous about leaving the house even when businesses have opened their doors again. It should be noted that reopening won’t be financially possible for roughly 26 percent of restaurants across the country.
Other restaurants are waiting for the government’s go-ahead. But for the government to consider them safe—and for customers to consider leaving their house—Toronto’s top food spots must implement certain safety measures. For instance, the BC government has asked restaurants to ensure that “high-touch” areas are disinfected frequently, and that plexiglass barriers are installed as sneeze guards.
Restaurants will need to go beyond having hand sanitizer readily available. Safety, rather than efficiency, is the top priority. The next time we visit our favourite local restaurant, we may notice the following:
- A spacious seating area. Increased spacing between tables will cut the maximum number of patrons in half.
- Digital menus. Antimicrobial screen protectors will be favoured over traditional paper menus. Likewise, e-receipts will replace paper receipts.
- Packets instead of bottles. Condiments will be given in packets rather than left on countertops or tables.
- Coverings over meals. Food brought to the table will be covered to assure customers of its protection on the way to the table.
- Disinfection during payment. Credit cards will be wiped when handed to a server, then wiped again when returned to the customer. POS terminals will be cleaned between transactions.
- Sanitizing between tables. Servers will change gloves or sanitize their hands between customers.
New Trends in Disinfection
The way restaurants operate from this point forward needs to be strategic and thoughtful. We will likely see a rise in specialized cleaning crews for COVID-19. Protecting the health and safety of customers and waitstaff—who are much more at risk — will be the number one post-lockdown priority of all restaurant owners.
Another trend to be on the lookout for is the adoption of hospital-grade technology for the widespread decontamination of public spaces, including offices, schools, and potentially restaurants as well. In particular, the use of short-wave UV-C light has received special attention recently.
UV-C light can obliterate up to 99.99 percent of bacteria and viruses, splitting apart its genetic material so that it can no longer function, much less reproduce.
Its application toward COVID-19 is already spreading. In China, UVC-light has been used to disinfect anything between elevators and buses. Here in Canada, our hospitals have been using UV-C routinely to disinfect surfaces and tools.
A study in Nature in 2018 touches on the potential for UV-C to reduce the spread of airborne viral infections without risking human health. Before lamps are installed in public spaces, we’re more likely to witness the power of UV-C being used to disinfect N95 masks, effectively solving the shortage.
It’s important to note that the array of lamps and wands sold online claiming to disinfect a variety of surfaces using UV light are wholly ineffective. It’s equally important to note that UV-C light is dangerous. Exposure causes serious burns in a matter of seconds, and its effect on the eyes is much worse.
The pandemic has turned our lives upside down. Unsurprisingly, consumer attitudes and behaviours have changed. With restaurants closed and stay-at-home orders in effect, many of us have taken up baking or reignited our love of cooking.
A survey by AMC Global found that 32% of consumers plan on cooking at home more frequently once lockdown has lifted. 33% are hoping to bake more than they usually do. Most importantly, 38% of those polled are looking forward to supporting local businesses in the coming weeks.
Restaurants Must Prepare for the New Norm
COVID-19 is not quite in our past just yet. When restaurants are given the opportunity to reopen, what employees and customers return to will be a long way from normal. The more the industry is able to band together and prepare itself, the less time it’ll take for the dining experience to return to its comfortable and profitable baseline.
Canadian restaurants and the people behind them have proven to be resilient and resourceful in these times of unprecedented uncertainty. As communities draw closer in support of local businesses, we have everything we need to weather the storm.
Are you interested in learning more about the many ways in which the COVID-19 crisis has shaped the Canadian restaurant industry? Get in touch with the team at CHI Real Estate by calling 647-347-9723.