And now, a tale of two takeouts.
For the first time in months, I left the house to actually set foot in a restaurant over the weekend. Both trips were just to pickup food, not eat in, but each experience was vastly different.
The pizza joint I went to had casual safety precautions at best. People were asked to socially distance. Some wore masks in line while others did not. When I signed the check, the cashier wiped the pen down with some rag before handing it to me, which actually made the idea of touching it worse in my mind.
The donut shop I stopped by was a different story. They had pink donut decals dotting the floor six feet apart, indicating where to stand. They offered masks (brought my own, thanks!) and when I signed the check, there were two containers of pens by the register, one for sterilized pens, one for used pens.
I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a germaphobe and on the more extreme end of caution. So the visit to the donuts shop was a little easier to manage. Ultimately, though, neither felt like it was worth the trip, and I can’t imagine that I could sit through an entire meal inside a restaurant dining room with other people right now.
The speculation around what restaurants will look like when they re-open is giving way to the reality of what they are actually doing. We can see for ourselves what measures are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus. What I’m learning is that for me, technology has made getting food to my door so convenient that I don’t need to go out to actual places. I’d much rather just order delivery (and tip generously, I promise!).
I don’t know if my coronavirus fears represent a larger use case or if I’m just off on my own quarantine island. But the reason I’m sharing all this with you is to see what you are comfortable with. For real! I can read restaurant sales stats from NPD and talk to friends and co-workers, but I’m genuinely curious what all of you in the food tech world think about going out to restaurants right now. Are you ready to go to one? What would make you feel safe? If you’re not ready now, when do you think you will be?
Email me at email@example.com, and tell me your tale.
What will happen with office catering?
While restaurants may be re-opening, many companies are still figuring out what going back to work in an office means. Will there be fewer people at a time, staggered hours, plexiglass shields? We don’t know.
But if the very existence of working in an office is in question, it stands to reason that office catering and the free meal perks that were a staple of Silicon Valley could be a thing of the past as well. At least as we knew them pre-pandemic. Big buffet style meals are gone from restaurants and grocery stores, so they probably won’t be in the break room. Not to mention the fact that we’re in a recession, so companies won’t have the same budgets available to feed workers.
All of this makes Uber Eats’ launch of its Vouchers program something to watch. Announced today, the new program gives Uber Eats’ corporate customers more control over ordering meals. Remote users can use them for meal deliveries at home, or they can be used to feed people at large virtual events (maybe we could try that at our virtual SKS?), or a sales team could use them to buy a meal for virtual lunch.
The idea of buying remote lunches for the participants of your virtual sales call is a very particular type of solution to a very particular moment in our pandemic times. I’m curious to see what other adaptations will be made to office eating as our definition of work goes through this transformation.
This is the web version of our newsletter. Sign up today to get updates on the rapidly changing nature of the food tech industry.