What will restaurants look like once the coronavirus pandemic subsides? Experts have an idea

While the virus may have died down, fear of getting sick is still very much alive

FILE - In this April 3, 2020, file photo, the seating area is closed-off at a food court in Assi Plaza during the coronavirus outbreak in Niles, Ill. As state and federal leaders tussle over when and how fast to reopen the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, some corporations are taking the first steps toward bringing their employees back to work. Retailers, restaurants and mall operators are looking at Chinas experience to see how they can reopen stores. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File) (Nam Y. Huh, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

We’re all dreaming of what we’re going to do when the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Many of us are ready for a night out on the town, visiting our favorite restaurants, bars and getaways.

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However, experts say that once the coronavirus pandemic is behind us, it seems unlikely that restaurants will be able to return to the way they were pre-COVID-19.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Re-Open Florida Task Force committee is meeting virtually this week to come up with a bonafide plan to help reopen the state.

Restaurant executives told the group, which consists of executives and CEOs from major brands, that fully reopening won’t be as simple as unlocking doors and turning on lights.

During an interview with Business Insider, Roger Lipton, a restaurant industry analyst, investor and advisor, said that the pandemic will change the restaurant industry “like 9/11 changed our lives.”

“There’s going to be a new normal in terms of our lifestyle,” Lipton told Business Insider. “I’m inclined to think that we’re not going to be back to so-called normal operations for the foreseeable future.”

According to BI, experts estimate that up to 20% of the more than one million restaurants in the U.S. could permanently close due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Orange County has launched a social media campaign to support local restaurants amid the spread of the coronavirus.

What could a post-COVID-19 restaurant look like?

Tim Petrillo, CEO of The Restaurant People, said that there will be dining room issues after the pandemic.

“In regards to reopening, what’s very important is we have a schedule from the federal government as to how we reopen. What’s it going to look like -- 50% required in a restaurant, social distancing -- how is that enforced -- capacity, what does outdoor dining look like?” Petrillo said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, restaurant executives mentioned touchless drive-thrus, acrylic screens and half-empty restaurants to ensure social distancing.

Restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, Burger King and Popeyes, are already implementing temperature checks for their employees.

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Jose Cil, CEO of Restaurant Brands International, which owns Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons, told DeSantis’ comittee that his in-restaurant employees are screened daily, asked health questions and have their temperatures taken.

“We need to have health screening questionnaires for managers to employ in all of the restaurants,” Cil said.

Since the pandemic swept through the Sunshine State, restaurants were forced to cut back to takeout and delivery services, while the statewide stay-at-home order is in effect.

“I think how restaurants are providing service [is also important]... we’ve implemented curbside service and take out service through mobile app,” Cil said.

The most used phrase of 2020 will undoubtedly be social distancing. The act of keeping at least 6 feet of space between you and another person to slow the spread of a disease.

Social distancing guidelines will still be noticeable, even after the pandemic. According to experts, restaurants will likely continue some of the social distancing measures when they open their doors. Restaurants will most likely put more space between tables and seat fewer customers into dining rooms.

While we continue to wait for our favorite restaurants and bars to open, we should remember that once stay-at-home orders are lifted and businesses re-open there will be a new sense of normal that we all must adapt to.

Amid growing unemployment claims, Gov. Ron DeSantis has tasked a group of state elected leaders, county mayors and officials from businesses including Disney World and Universal to help shape the plan to re-open the Sunshine State for business after the coronavirus pandemic.

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