Restaurants re-opening in the US over the next few days will provide a potential case study of how the sector will fare when lockdowns ease, according to Barclays.
Thirty US states are due to re-open their economies despite some severe warnings of the potential risks, it said.
Casual dining will be especially keenly watched said the broker, as the sector has seen business fall 50-75% and is 80% dependent on dine-in sales.
“While re-opening even 25% of capacity will help cashflows and defend against the looming recession, the jury is out over whether customers will even turn up given health fears and lower disposable income, following a spike in ‘free at last’ dining out. “
Restaurants will need to quickly adapt to social distancing rules, better hygiene and safety guidelines, higher staff turnover, absenteeism, adds the broker, with the possibility of lawsuits if people catch the virus or that disappointed customers don’t come back, it said.
“There are so many issues arising between the economic benefits of re-opening, and the risks of reopening too soon, whether customers will actually come (and return), and what happens legally if a supplier, employee or customer contracts COVID on their premises.
Barclays is also concerned on prospects for the airline sector and the impact that social distancing may have on the economics of the European carriers.
“The airline industry is navigating a perfect storm as it faces a cyclically and structurally smaller markets for the foreseeable future,” said the broker.
Its comments came as UK workers had a first glimpse of what life will be like when the lockdowns end, with leaked documents suggesting staggered shifts, strict two-metre distancing, no face-to-face meetings and canteen closures.
Prime minister Boris Johnson will release full details on Sunday, but for businesses the uncertainty is likely to stretch out much further, said the broker.
“We are learning what new normal might represent, whether that relates to waiting and delivery times, booking facilities and reservations, range of consumer choice, in-store and online shopping experience, entertainment, access and movement, employment amongst many other elements,” said Barclays.