How lucky I am not to own a restaurant. And what a nightmare, since March, for anyone!
From the most popular dish to multi-star gastronomic temples, in Brazil and around the world, few will end 2020 in good (financial) health.
Today I received an email promoting the Christmas dinner in Mirazur, in the south of France, voted number one restaurant in the world in the ranking of the 50 best. For 240 euros per person, chef-owner Mauro Colagreco brings a six-course dinner to the customer – delivered throughout France – in addition to bread and oil, with a booklet explaining how to prepare everything.
Until the virus hit Europe, Colagreco couldn’t handle the thousands of fans who called Mirazur to ask to reserve a table. The waiting list was huge, he was invited to open businesses on multiple continents and the finances were going very well, thank you. Then France shut down, restaurants were forced to close and Colagreco had to dance to new music to survive, despite being famous. Daniel Humm, another award-winning cook, has closed his Eleven Madison Park in New York City and sells roast chicken to go.
“Times are changing”, as Bob Dylan sang in 1964.
Celebrity chef Daniel Boulud, a New York-based Frenchman and owner of a restaurant empire, emerged this week posting hot chocolate powder on his Instagram – with his two young children and wife Katherine, all dressed for Christmas. In Brazil, Alex Atala joined the wave of dark kitchens – kitchens that only make dishes for delivery – by launching Nóix on the last day 3, certainly to make up for the losses you have to endure with his famous DOM restaurant.
Given the severity of the crisis, I understand the logic of rush delivery and easy money from merchandising. But delivery is a double-edged sword. If on the one hand it generates sales and income, on the other hand it forces many restaurant owners to bow down to the giants that dominate the market – iFood, Uber Eats, Rappi etc. – which charge high commissions of up to 25%. of the order value. And going out and selling mass products on social networks is a band-aid that can quickly make money, but which risks irreparably damaging the image of a chef.
Talking is easy, I know… But if I were in their shoes, I would focus on long term solutions and on the pursuit and adoption of emerging technologies. For example: if my restaurant was big, I would import an English robot (yes, it already exists, for sale or for rent) that disinfects rooms with ultraviolet rays and would use it to do the expensive and time-consuming job of cleaning living rooms and kitchens several times a day. The same company also sells a virus-proof waitress named Amy who takes orders and serves drinks, with a smile of red lights and a dress-like body, a tray strapped to her hands.
If I focused on delivery, I would keep an eye out for the launch – which is coming sooner than you think! – the first drones specially designed to deliver packages guided by GPS. They are already in full swing in Canada and are being tested in several countries by giants like Amazon. A startup from Franca, inside São Paulo, has created the first Brazilian delivery drone, which already performs tests authorized by Anac – the National Civil Aviation Agency – including in partnership with iFood.
Robots and drones can seem expensive and inaccessible – but anything new in technology conveys that image at first. If the first iPhones were rare and considered luxury goods, today half of São Paulo has yours. My mum in her seventies, with her months of isolation, has become a dating expert thanks to Zoom – a technology that scared her not long ago. Scanning a QR code to be able to read a menu seemed like something out of the ordinary until we stepped out of the compound and had to get used to going to restaurants avoiding touching objects touched by others. Ordering a dry martini for Amy robotics will seem normal in a few years.
I’m not saying robots and drones will save restaurants from the crisis. Optimizing processes and reducing costs, ditto, in specific cases.
I’m just using them as examples of a huge wave of innovation that’s already out there, spreading to universities, startups, labs, and think tanks around the world that is expected to improve the lives of millions of people, including including restaurateurs if punished. .
We see it go from an edible water bubble, which eliminates the need for plastic bottles, to protein foods synthesized from plant waste. If we live in a difficult and lean time of profit, entertainment, travel and freedoms, I dare say there is a silver lining. These are times rich in inventions, innovations, discoveries, learning and entrepreneurship.