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These are testing times for bars and coffee shops in Italy’s new normal

new normal

MILAN – There are big changes ahead for bars as they gear up to adapt to the “new normal”, reorganising spaces both indoors (to optimise customer flows) and outdoors, and the ways they interact. They will need to cater to the new requirements for safety, health and trust in phase 2, and beyond. The many measures that will need to be taken start with bookings via apps and takeaway services. The underlying objective will be to re-establish a dialogue with the clientele in the new normal.

Cosimo Libardo, the CEO of Carimali, has travelled for his studies and for work – from Italy to the USA and Australia – and this is not the first emergency he has had to face: “On 9/11 I was in Orlando and was running the American market of a large firm. All orders were suspended, no one knew what was going to happen and it was as if war had broken out. But we got through it.”

Today, he believes, bars “will have to completely rethink their business model to follow changes in consumer behaviour. To start with things will decline, there will be no tourists and consumers will divide into those who want to get back to life as it was before and those who will continue to be fearful.” So what solutions will have to be found?

“Digitalisation will be fundamental for maintaining contact with customers and to make up for the losses in the physical channel. It will be necessary to diversify, promoting takeaways and deliveries. That will mean taking coffee outside the bar, and putting it on wheels. Deliveries might mean the espresso at home with something extra, like artisanal pastries, gelato, a newspaper”, which is something Peck already does in Milan.

Trust and health will be the big issues in the new normal. And here innovation will come to the fore with new projects or technologies that have now become indispensable.

What plans does his company have? “We are working on a container for cups that sanitises every time it is closed, so that the cups are always ‘safe’. And also on a takeaway payment system where the machine, a fully automatic one, is activated from a smartphone. It can also be set up in bars, and customers take out the coffee themselves using the app and without touching any buttons or screens.”

A global vision of “bar recovery” comes from Enrico Bracesco, chief commercial officer of Gruppo Cimbali.

“One of the first changes as I see it will be the positioning of the machine and the coffee grinder towards the exterior of the bar, with the café’s menu displayed outside: a practice that is not very widespread in Italy, but which will take on a new importance now. It is an idea to exploit when establishments open, because it will also be a way of capturing a public on the go, as well as those going inside, and that will increase volumes.” But it is important to have a machine inside, too, and that would have to be positioned – if it hasn’t already been – towards the front.

“Today it is a design item, it is lower and opens up the field of vision to customers to enable them to be part of the extraction process. Transparency is a fundamental psychological element right now because it gives customers peace of mind.”

It will also be the job of the company, now more than ever, to simplify processes and the work of the barista.

“In this sense we believe that it makes sense to focus on automatic systems to clean machines, such as the hand shower for the filters, the devices to help reduce the waste of water and energy and thus reduce costs, the cleaning and washing systems with timers on the fully automatic machines, the Gruppo Cimbali app whose various functions include remote control of the fully automatic machines, which reduces contact between the person and the product and, on the coffee grinders, the espresso tamper, which automatically establishes the pressure of the coffee in the filter, reducing contacts but also speeding up the whole process: a very important element because in the short term, with limited customer access to the bar, operations will need to be carried out in the shortest time possible.”