These restaurant trends are here to stay, even in a post-pandemic world

Published November 14, 2021, 4:00 PM

by Marie Buenaventura

With a side of safety

SAFETY FIRST Restaurant workers are still required to follow and enforce quarantine rules such as the wearing of face masks, face shields, and social distancing

Restaurants are beginning to open with higher capacities as Metro Manila is downgraded into Alert Level 2. But even with COVID-19 infection rates slowing down, many are still hesitant to take advantage of the chance to dine out. Take-out and delivery are still the most preferred way to order food, and so restaurants and fastfood chains are continuing to optimize these platforms for their customers, giving rise to food apps, curbside pickup, and more drive-thrus.

Many fastfood chains have even launched their own apps or websites to cut the middleman, and to be able to deliver their food faster to their customers. Enterprising homebakers have tapped into Facebook Marketplace and Instagram to spread the word about their creations. Drive-thrus have longer lines than ever, and curbside pickup at restaurants give diners a chance to look at the menu and then just wait for the food in the safety of the cars.

Delivery packaging has also leveled up for many restaurant owners, who are always on their toes trying to create promos and deals to lure in customers, who have a wealth of choices with just a click of the app. Digital loyalty programs, too, have become a hot new trend that allows customers to earn points for rewards.

Mercato Centrale, the famous weekend food market, opened its first physical restaurant called Mercato United Kitchen, a cloud kitchen housing 19 vendors for takeout and delivery.

Aiming to serve not just the customers but also foodpreneurs amid the pandemic, it has been able to pivot into the growing global restaurant model of cloud kitchens while retaining the original Mercato spirit with al fresco dining setup and considering all protocols in place. It allows customers to order various dishes from different merchants under one delivery fee.

RESTAURANTS OF THE FUTURE Grab Kitchen and Kraver’s Canteen commissary collaboration in Paranaque facade (Mark Anastacio)

Cloud kitchens have grown in number and size, with huge investors coming in. A cloud kitchen is a delivery-only restaurant that has no physical space for dine-in. It relies entirely on online orders placed through online food aggregators or an online ordering-enabled website or mobile app. Think of it as an online food court, where you can choose different items from different brands under one delivery provider. If you’re an entrepreneur, it is good for you because you can “share” a kitchen with other establishments.

In the Philippines, the founder of Tinder has invested in cloud kitchens like Kraver’s Canteen and CloudEats. MedEats, a Johnny-come-lately, has already secured millions in deals. Kraver’s Canteen, a startup, recently secured $1.5 million (about P72.7 million) in seed funding from Foxmont Capital Partners, JG Summit CEO Lance Gokongwei, co-founder of Grab Brian Cu, co-founder of Zalora Paolo Campos III, Century Pacific chairman Christopher Po, and Rico’s Lechon president George Pua.

Pandemic or no pandemic, this is the future.

For the brave of heart, indoor dining is a certainly a different experience now—face masks, gloves, sanitizer stations, temperature tests, even acrylic barriers or Plexiglass in between seats, and QR-code menus replacing traditional paper menus, or even digital menus. And it looks like they’re all going to stay even with restrictions being eased up.

INDOOR OUTDOOR Bubble pods of Sheraton Manila

The restaurant industry is likely to keep no-contact ordering or “frictionless ordering,” as well as mobile or digital payments, which may be an added expense to restaurants but will be a mainstay for the future.

Restaurants like Mendokoro Ramenba have created at-home ramen kits, many bars have made-to-go cocktail kits, popular fastfood chains have sold their products in a ready-to-cook version. Some establishments even create online platforms to encourage guests to learn how to prepare their food or drinks at home.

The look and design of restaurants have dramatically changed. Best example: Just look at Vubble, Sheraton Manila’s luxury indoor bubble spot. Not just barriers or huge seating gaps, the Vubble takes it to the extreme as the Philippines’ very first luxury outdoor pod. It’s a unique venue for those who wish to bask in the outdoors and experience an innovative dining moment. 

You will enjoy a picturesque 360 degree view of the hotel’s garden and pool whether you visit during the day or night. In the morning, you get a view of the Vega Pool. At night, you can sit under the stars, watching your surroundings transform into a romantic dining venue.

The pods are UV, water, and moisture-proof. It’s also well-ventilated and maintained at a stable temperature to keep you comfortable.

Indoor dining restrictions have forced restaurateurs to take it “outside.” Even big hotels have no choice but to do it. At City of Dreams Manila, Nobu has its floating cabanas, and poolside dining has suddenly become the favorite seating area.

Even as the world opens up, and restrictions are lifted, this pandemic has forever changed the way we dine. One thing we can look forward to with all these trends—at least we’re assured of quiet and privacy from now on.