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  • Writer's pictureMarcy Weiss

Creativity in Quarantine

Innovations and Ideas for the Foodservice & Hospitality Industry

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” might be an age-old proverb but it’s one that I find more and more relevant as we continue to live through this pandemic. And typically, around New Year’s Eve, everyone is trying to reinvent themselves. But this past year was different. Around April when I think we realized this COVID-19 life was sticking around for a while, people, businesses, schools, and everything around us was trying to reinvent itself. I thought rather than write about the future, resolutions and the typical January blog posts, that I’d reflect on some of the incredible ideas established in the foodservice and hospitality industry over the past nine months.

Being based in New York, we’ve had pretty strict regulations throughout the pandemic and its really hurt local restaurateurs … even more so during these cold months. While many locations are simply popping igloos and greenhouses up, I’ve got to mention Coach Meeting House. This Long Island north shore restaurant opened days before the pandemic hit and reinvented itself into a must visit experience. In the summer, it emerged as a drive-thru frozen cocktail bar with probably 10 drink options, including daily specials. For those of you that don’t know the area, this spot is near some of Long Island’s beaches, so it was a pit stop on the way to a refreshing, relaxing day.

In more recent months, Coach Meeting House transformed what I think was a parking lot into a winter wonderland. Made up of several igloos, each one features heat from a faux fireplace, a smart TV, lounge seating, app ordering and a private firepit (don’t worry the firepits are just outside of your igloo). The ambiance was great, and although the menu is limited, who doesn’t want a spiked hot chocolate or cider to top off a chilly evening? If you want to check out the hype or are into social media, definitely view its Facebook page. Speaking candidly, the igloo winter wonderland experience is something that I hope is here to stay.

Another trend that we’ve seen a lot of during the pandemic is food pick up options. Though third-party delivery apps certainly serve a purpose, for many, the less contact our food had with other individuals, the better. As a result, pick-up shelving, and ambient and heated lockers began appearing in restaurants and office buildings. The latter not only provided a safety net in terms of food contact, but also fewer touch points with barcode scanning technology that opens the locker. Recently, I read about a vacant store that became a hub for restaurants on the street to provide a central pick-up location in the neighborhood. And, if you really want to talk about taking food pick up to the extreme, look at this restaurant that transformed the look of its entrance to a lemonade stand/walk-up pick-up when indoor dining couldn’t happen in spring 2020.

For those residing in communities like senior living and college dorms, leaving their rooms became a novelty at the height of the pandemic. One senior living community in Huntingdon, PA, created the Wok Wagon. From my perspective, the concept is a spin on the pop-up restaurant. The Wok Wagon traveled to specific locations around the community allowing residents to grab takeout or have stir-fry delivered to their rooms. It was a slight twist on something we’ve seen in the past, but I’m sure a welcomed one during this time.

While all these ideas were sparked from the necessity to maintain business and convenience, there is one more thing I remember reading early in the pandemic. What made it incredible, in my opinion, was the service it provides to our first responders. Glendale Memorial Hospital in California converted its hospital café to a market allowing frontline workers to pick up basic groceries and quick meals. Honestly, it was a simple thing to do, but it really exemplified the solution to a problem. This market concept was welcomed with open arms by this healthcare community as seen by the results cited in the article and also ensured some work for foodservice staff.

I’ve only mentioned a few of the incredible ideas that have developed in all sectors of foodservice and hospitality during the pandemic. However, one thing you’ll notice, is that they all have a common theme of convenience. For the consumer, convenience became key throughout all aspects of life and is now an expectation, but for us these reinventions and new conveniences have become a way of life. While I hope some of them are here to stay, I must admit, I really can’t wait to sit down in a restaurant with my friends and enjoy a few bottles of wine. There was something convenient about that too.

From all the contributing writers at Quel’s Corner, we want to wish you a happy and healthy 2021. Cheers!

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