Prior to COVID19, it was unusual to see someone in public wearing a mask over their nose and mouth. Moving forward, more people will use some type of facial covering. This will be especially true when running errands, especially going to the grocery. In fact, some establishments will require them. It won’t be everyone, every store, or all the time. It will be just enough to make face masks part of the new normal.
Shaking hands will be the exception rather than the norm for the foreseeable future. Casual, social hugging will also decline with the exception of close personal relationships. In essence, people will significantly minimize their physical contact with new and/or casual acquaintances. Over time, it is conceivable the Asian custom of bowing will become more commonplace in the remainder of the world.
People will be excited when their favorite restaurants reopen, if they reopen. However, ‘stuck in the middle’ restaurants and chains, those which don’t compete effectively on either price or product, will see a sharp drop in demand. Traditional so-called ‘fern bars’ will be the hardest hit, particularly in markets where there are multiple, arguably better, options. This was a trend prior to COVID19, but it will significantly accelerate moving forward.
After having to do so during the lock downs, people will continue to cook more at home. While eating out is convenient, tasty, and fun, families will have noticed the savings in their budget from preparing their own meals. Interestingly, one of the unintentional, though welcome, outcomes of this crisis will be a slowing in the growth rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet related illnesses in the US.
The decline in the Chinese restaurant industry will continue, but for different reasons. Because their hard work ensured greater opportunities for their children (coupled with declining Chinese immigration), 1st generation Chinese-Americans won’t have anyone to take over their restaurants. It will just seem to be suspiciously coincidental with COVID19.
As a result of this decline, ‘South Asian’ and/or Pan-Asian restaurants will continue to adjust their cuisine to American tastes and proliferate. My grandchildren will probably be more comfortable with dishes like chicken tikka masala, pho, larb, and samosas than with kung pao chicken, hot & sour soup, egg rolls, and lo mein.
The fast food industry will redesign floorplans and adopt technology to ensure the next public health scare doesn’t impact their business like this one did. This bodes poorly for cashiers and other front of the house personnel, as those jobs start to disappear from the economy. Fast food will become truly fast food. Customers will order and pay by phone, and pick up their meals in an automat-esque type manner. Overall, fast food chains will be leaner and meaner.
The travel and airline industries will have to adjust to a lower ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future. People will limit their air travel due to fears of another contagion. As a result, consumers will determine their travel plans based on the length of the drive time to the location. Overseas travel and tourist dependent states and cities (like California, Florida, and New York City) will suffer the most, even if the beaches may seem full.
In another blow to the airline and travel industries, companies will cut their travel expenses by making greater use of apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams for meetings, both internal and external. Even a 10% reduction in airline travel at the corporate level due to more efficient use of communications technology will have a huge impact on airlines and hotels.