How Will Cruise Lines Serve Food in the COVID-19 Era?
We are in the middle of a paradigm shift, a true disruption in most aspects of our social lives; from meeting friends, going out, exercising, working to travelling. Covid-19 has brought many a lot of grief, but on the positive side, it is also working as a catalysator and an engine for creativity, innovation, and progress. If a pandemic occurs again, we will be prepared. The cruise lines are working on new processes to ensure the safest possible experience for passengers and working environment for the crews.
One of the areas that cruise lines will inevitably have to rethink and modify is their catering areas and restaurants. Buffets, as we know them, might change drastically or even cease to exist. As a first quick fix step, owners will need to figure out easy and cost-efficient temporary solutions in order to be ready for sailing in August. The temporary solutions, however, will most likely not be 100% efficient and visually acceptable as long-term solutions.
During 2020 cruise lines will hesitate to make big revitalization changes since the future standards and regulations are still unclear. There are also potential difficulties related to traveling and boarding installation crews, and the cruise lines will be operating in difficult financial conditions.
After the pandemic has settled and we have learned more about the spreading of the virus, new standards and regulations will start emerging from independent regulatory institutions, but new demands will also arise from cruisers. Cruise lines will initiate step two, to redesign their old buffet restaurants and catering areas to be able to serve many customers efficiently, while maintaining the highest possible standard, without making large investments. It will not just be about serving food in a safe way; it will also be about conveying a sensation of safety to the customers. Still, the superior customer experience must be as excellent as before. The new concept must be “wow”, while meeting the new standards and regulations.
Once the cruise ships have been sailing for a while and revenue starts rolling in, it’s time for the third step, to start revitalizing and marketing the new restaurant concept to regain customer confidence and satisfaction. Some will choose to keep the buffet concept but implement design improvements and equipment innovations that makes it safe. Others will transform their restaurants into an a la carte with open kitchens or cooking shows. Whatever the choice may be, we'll be working on short term quick fix solutions to get the restaurants up and running to redesign and revitalization of new innovative future-proof and germ-proof restaurant concepts. Let’s all sit down together to make the new normal better than the old one.
Erik Schobesberger is Vice President Sales Modernization at ALMACO, a full service contractor for new construction and modernization of cabins, wet units, public spaces, galleys, laundries, provision stores, refrigeration machinery and complete living quarters.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.