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Will Guidara, New York City-based restaurateur, and Clelia Peters, Inman editor at large, discussed how hospitality-focused industries can survive in a world with coronavirus during a talk called “High-Touch Service in a Low-Touch World” at Inman Connect Now on Wednesday.
“I think that restaurants are generally the lifeblood of neighborhoods, and what’s happening to restaurants today has meaningful impact for us in the residential real estate world,” Peters said.
Because of the way in which restaurants contribute to the character of a community that people call home, Peters said it’s to the advantage of real estate professionals to be allies to those in the restaurant community now.
“The vibrancy of the hospitality industry is often linked to the success of real estate assets,” Peters said.
Restaurants have been particularly vulnerable throughout the pandemic because they rely on social gathering, which has effectively been banned. While they’re able to do carry-out orders, Guidara said that curbside operations can’t come close to making up for their vast amount of lost in-person business.
In this way, many real estate agents have felt like restaurateurs, in that being able to have face-to-face social interaction with a client or customer lies at the heart of their business. Without it, it can be a challenge to maintain a personal connection.
“Revenue is going to be down for a long time,” Guidara said. “A lot of the restaurants that make up the fabric of the cities and towns across America will go away forever.”
Guidara has been advocating for the industry over the past few months, visiting the White House to discuss amendments to the PPP program and appeal for additional relief funds for restaurants specifically to enable them to reopen.
On the real estate side, Guidara noted that a real estate agent’s role has become especially significant in today’s climate.
“You all get to help people find their home,” Guidara said, emphasizing that it’s never been more important that people feel comfortable in their home.
Musing on how both real estate and the restaurant industry can practice hospitality in a world of social distancing, Guidara noted that, during this moment in time, “We are given grace like we’ve never been given before to try new things.”
“The world craves playfulness,” Guidara said. “You can pivot and try something new, and if it doesn’t work, you can pivot again.”
Although most people in his own industry are arguing that the experience of going to a restaurant just won’t be the same in the future, Guidara said restaurateurs and real estate professionals should look at our present moment as an opportunity to shape a new form of hospitality.
“There’s a lot of things that are going to get in the way of human connection for the foreseeable future,” Guidara said.
“But in the same way, if you smile big enough, you can see someone smile through a mask,” he added. “It just means that all of the things we’re used to doing in an effort to connect with other people, we do them louder.”