Delivery and takeout become popular, but NJ still enjoys dining out
Takeout and delivery services have become a mainstay in New Jersey during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as things get back to normal, these services are probably here to stay, serving as a new trend for some places that never offered such a service.
Marilou Halvorsen, president of The New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said while takeout and delivery services have become popular with people holed up in their homes either due to the virus or because of inclement weather, residents will be looking forward to dining out again as spring returns.
She said while many restaurants have relied on takeout and delivery services to help them during the pandemic, it would not be a good idea for them to abandon indoor and outdoor dining.
But Halvorsen said if restaurants have good partnerships with third-party delivery services, then it's worth their while if the expenses and fees they charge don't become too onerous.
Third-party delivery service DoorDash just gave The New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association a grant to award to independent restaurants.
Young people, especially 18 to 24, are more inclined to use these-third party apps, including GrubHub, for delivery services than older people. For restaurants that don't have delivery drivers, they are relying on these third-party deliveries without having to worry about the expenses of paying for a driver or insurance.
Halvorsen said Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, introduced legislation capping delivery fees that third-party delivery services can charge during the pandemic. That has since expired. But she does encourage restaurant owners to negotiate with third-party deliveries on making sure they get the best deals.
There is one drawback to takeout and delivery service.
"Personally, sometimes delivery doesn't always taste as good as when you get it fresh when sitting at your table, especially French fries. They do not travel well, I've come to find out," said Halvorsen.
Also, with delivery and takeout comes the expense of packaging and containers that restaurants need to invest in, she said. Environmentally, it's not great. While future legislation will limit what kind of packaging restaurants can use that will have a less of an impact on the environment, this packaging could be costly.
But outdoor dining will remain hugely popular because restaurants have invested a lot in creating outdoor spaces, said Halvorsen. There is also legislation that will them to continue this until well into 2022.
So many restaurants have been forced to close their doors when the pandemic hit. Some chose to go on hiatus. Halvorsen said it will be interesting to see what comes back and what shuts down for good when the pandemic ends.
She said just because Gov. Phil Murphy has decided to increase indoor dining capacity to 50% starting Friday, March 19, and people start going back out to restaurants, that does not mean restaurants have fully recovered.
"Keeping that in mind, our small business community is going to certainly need help well through the next few years," she said.