Dining out – What’s food got to do with it?


Dining out is a ritual, a celebration, it’s something we look forward to, it’s the memories we have gathered over our lives, it’s our first date, our last successful deal, our merger, our reunion, or even our shopping break. Think of any major milestone of our life, dining out would be an essential part of it as it’s coded in our DNA. It’s our reality and our escape, it’s our next conversation and it used to be the largest share of our wallet. Tarun Sibal, Chef, Marketer and entrepreneur, Culinary Director, One Fine Meal, shares his views on the ritual of dining out and the new normal of dining out in today’s times.

Food makes you choose where you eat, its social contact that gets you out of home.

The so-called cure “Contactless dining” is based on eliminating nonessential human interaction while you dine out and that’s where the pertinent question lies, in the term “Non-Essential”.

What was an integral part of a restaurant’s service cycle and made it distinctive, can be termed as non-essential now? And who classifies this? The consumer, the aggregator or the restaurant itself? And how is buying grocery in terms of touch points any different from having coffee at a restaurant?

Well technically there isn’t any difference, it is the consumer mind set which will dictate their behavior on what’s a go and what’s a no go.

The sheer reason to move out is human contact, it’s about experience, it’s about being at a place where you want to be, seen where you want to be seen, and of course having that cocktail that you crave for sitting at bar and having that penne made to your preference, slightly al dente.

Is getting contact out of the food and beverage space the answer, we wanted to hear? And does it ensure viability or it’s a knee jerk reaction to a problem that would need a more detailed remedy? I think it came out of an Action bias syndrome, where in we were supposed to be seen taking a step and doing something to combat the problem.

“What do you recommend?” Is the most common question a guest asks and any wait staff will tell you that this is where they have the opportunity to ensure that the dinner has a flawless experience in terms of what he orders, how much he orders, and that he feels connected and taken care of. I don’t think technology can replace any of this.

“Been a long-time sir, I presume you were travelling, may I get you your usual?” How does technology replace this conversation, when you sit at the bar stool?

Having said that, the answer to how things will pan out is when technology will enable contact and safety. Every restaurant to survive will need to adhere to top standards of hygiene and protocols on the way they run their show. From personal hygiene, surface sanitation, staff health checks, traceability of produce, working with vendors who comply with the laid-out standards, keeping records of staff and dinners, and multiple such things will mushroom that will be a must do to ensure guest and staff safety.

From a consumer perspective, safety assurance will be the most focal point when he makes a dining out decision. The consumer will make informed choices basis what has been shared with him. And more the information it will be the on-ground implementation of the laid-out standards that will make or break any restaurant, bar, club or a café.

I am an optimist and believe that the places that will survive the Covid onslaught will bounce back leaner and stronger. A new normal awaits the industry, and I hope its with contact.

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