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10 mins

Welcome to the jungle

True, entire industries have been turned on their heads. But while we may be isolating, we don’t have to be isolated. Now more than ever before, we should be looking at new ways to do things; from socialising to operating businesses that rely on social interactions.

Ever since the UK introduced lockdown, thousands of businesses have been impacted.

They’ve been forced to either adapt their operation in terms of how and where their employees work, or in many instances – such as pubs and restaurants – close their doors, furlough their staff and hope a combination of whatever’s in the bank and whatever support they get from the government is enough to get them through.

Beyond the stress of the situation, one of the biggest things I expect many people are feeling right now is a distinct lack of variety in their lives. Where we used to keep ourselves entertained with seeing family and friends, and going out to socialise, we’re suddenly living in an eerie combination of Groundhog Day and an episode of Black Mirror.

Living in lockdown shouldn’t isolate us from culture, nor culture from us.

One thing many of us miss is socialising over good food, with friends and family. At the moment, our daily meals are dictated by whatever we have in – which often isn’t what we want – or being able to think far enough ahead to book a food delivery slot from whichever takeaway will deliver to us.

But what about the thousands upon thousands of pubs and restaurants who literally saw their custom vanish overnight? The talented fronts of house, the brilliantly attentive waitstaff, and of course, those who work the in the kitchen preparing delectable delights.

MUNCHIES, the VICE channel dedicated to food, recently published a short film featuring chef/restaurateur, David Chang, talking about the devastation caused to the restaurant industry by Covid-19. A combination of lack of custom, funding and clarity has killed trade and created uncertainty that extends way beyond the venues to the entire supply chain.

“Restaurants are in a very precarious position, as all of their income for the most part comes from brick and mortar stores… Over the next couple of months and into the future, we need to take a hard look at where does our revenue come from and how do we diversify… As a restaurant group, we have to evolve and we have to get smarter and not be do dependent on our current model,” says Marguerite Mariscal of Momofuku, David Chang’s own restaurant in New York City.

Culturally, this is a watershed moment. Things have changed and will continue to do so. And whilst many things are out of our control, there are some things we do have the power and capability to do – today.

Stay in to eat out

On May 12, 2015, two names you’ve probably never heard, David Rogier and Aaron Rasmussen, launched a new online education platform called MasterClass. Unlike many online courses, MasterClass provides people with access to learn from some of the absolute best in the world, including Deadmau5, Annie Leibovitz, Jodie Foster, Serena Williams, and Gordon Ramsay.

Why mention MasterClass? Because it’s a great example of innovation in a crowded space of sameness. When every course looks the same, how do you choose which one to do? What’s great about the MasterClass courses is not only are they educational, they also have a cultural slant providing insight into the gruelling nature of each discipline, and the combined effort of striving for perfection and retaining a love for their craft. And beyond the simple joy of watching and learning from them, each session hopefully inspires you to go and try something new.

The main event

Just over a week ago, in response to market demand and a natural progression for The Crocodile’s service offering, we launched Podium, an Immersive Digital Events Design service.

Podium was originally conceived to help B2B businesses design and run digital events that would be equal to, or better than physical events.

Whilst we’ve seen huge interest from the B2B industry, it quickly became apparent that Podium doesn’t just have to be a service for B2B. Why couldn’t Podium develop a new virtual restaurant offering that worked something like this:

The Digital Dining Experience

Rather than venturing out to your favourite restaurant, in this new world, your favourite restaurant comes to your home. Book a table with friends and family, have the ingredients for the menu sent to you then join and have the chef and kitchen staff take you through creating the menu, live.

Whilst this is a massively over–simplified view on how restaurants run, it hopefully provides a glimpse of what could potentially be achieved by looking at an existing model and industry in a new light.

Some restaurants are already trying out digital experiences

Padella head chef Tim Siadatan decided he would give a live demonstration of one of the Padella pasta dishes for his team. He soon realised his customers would love to join as well. So now he invites them to do just that.

The day before, he lets you know what ingredients you need and what needs to be prepped before the cook along. Then on Thursday at 6:00pm, he demonstrates the menu. Complete with his children helping and the occasional sip of beer. With his relaxed style, he creates the feeling of being a dinner guest at his home enjoying the spectacle as well as the food.

I believe that whilst most businesses are going through immense struggles right now, one of the worst things is simply to sit still and wait. Now is the time to rethink old models, to innovate and test out new ways to operate and reach customers – new and old.

Oliver Budworth, Head of Strategy at The Crocodile

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Oliver Budworth

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