Pandemic's impact on food industry

Posted at 7:19 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 19:35:10-04

With restaurants severely limited in how they can operate, the pandemic has forced many people to change how they eat.

According to Dr. Robert Williams, a Virginia Tech professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, one survey found 54 percent of people are cooking more than normal and that may continue even after the outbreak.

51 percent of people in the survey say they plan to continue cooking at home more.

Getting people back in the door is just one of the challenges restaurants are facing as they begin to reopen.

Dr. Williams says other challenges include maintaining seating capacity limits, social distancing, increased sanitation, employee safety and supply chain disruptions.

Since grocery stores and restaurants mainly rely on separate distribution systems, Dr. Williams believes it will be okay overall, but there may be some issues.

“We've seen some meat facility, meat processing facility shutdowns, and so there may be some supply issues on meat and other items for a bit," said Dr. Williams.

Looking ahead, he says it's hard to say yet what the long-term impacts will be.

It’ll depend partly on where things stand with the number of coronavirus cases and partly on when people are comfortable going back to restaurants in large groups.

But for some restaurants it may be too late. Dr. Williams says an estimated 15 - 25 percent of restaurants may not reopen.