May. 1, 2020

Post-pandemic world will be a whole lot different, are you ready?

It’s not going to be business as usual when the current COVID-19 lockdown ends, a whole new world awaits, say industry experts.

Mark Fenwick, manager of Woodgrove Centre, and Ian Tostenson, CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association, told a Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce webinar Friday that reopening will come in stages with business and customers adapting as they go along.

Fenwick said Woodgrove is already gearing up to be ready once clearance comes from the province. But it will be a phased-in approach. Distancing and personal protection equipment like masks and other regulations will continue well beyond initial openings. It will come in stages.

Tostenson added that things will be a lot different when restaurants reopen to the public. He sees distancing and crowd restrictions continuing for quite some time. It will be a challenging time for the industry, a case of phasing in change as regulations permit. He hopes new ideas will allow for the food services industry to reopen soon on a limited basis, pointing to Manitoba which now allows outdoor patios for food service. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has encouraged people to get outside, out of their homes, so outdoor service make sense. Municipal regulations could be a challenge for things like patio service. 

Food service owners and their staff will have a new role to play – to lift people up after they’ve been shuttered for so long. “Create a little levity, lightness, consumers have been battered and many have lost their jobs,” he added.

Shopping, going to malls and restaurants is a social experience, walking, fast food and socializing lift people, said Fenwick. 

Opening food courts will raise interesting challenges about whether they can allow sit-down service or whether it will be takeout for a while. He expects social distancing similar to restaurants to continue for some time. 

Woodgrove will have a welcome-back booklet for customers ensuring them of guidelines during the transition, giving them confidence that they will be safe. There will be a lot of extra cleaning in all areas along with signage outlining the rules like safe distancing, Fenwick said.

Business, whether retail or restaurants, will need specific plans before they open. Tostenson expects to have clear rules, and a specific plan, and looks to Dr. Henry for that. Retail is one thing, but there are services like doctors offices, dental offices and what they will be required to have in their facilities. 

Pointing to notable changes, Fenwick said things like trying on clothing at retail stores has to be addressed. Everyone will have to adjust and adapt – it’s going to be different and challenging, and in stages. There have been a lot of innovations during the shutdown – takeout, delivery services, curbside pickup. Some of those will continue and some will expand in the long run. 

Many retailers may not be able to reopen, unable to meet the challenges that have arisen. Up to 39 per cent of businesses have expressed concern about being able to survive.

Some planned business expansions and new store openings have been moved to the backburner. There will be some caution, some delays of a few months or even a year. The first step is to ramp up to speed, Fenwick said.