In one fell swoop, COVID-19 ended salad bars, hot food buffets, and other types of self-service outlets that have become popular in take-away restaurants and grocery stores over the past decade. And even when facilities reopen, self-service buffets may be a thing of the past, as it is almost impossible to control the spread of germs with shared utensils and customers who breathe all over the glass.
What should become of the rooms in which buffets were once housed? On a recent trip to the Harris Teeter near my house, I saw that the store had turned the hot bar into a festive display of locally grown produce from local farmers' markets. Many customers, including myself, were drawn to the colorful premium, which looks much more attractive than the dried out, greasy hot bar foods that have ever been.
As the pandemic looks more and more like work from home, remote hearings, and continued social distance, law firms need to think seriously about how to replace the old with something better. In other words, instead of just opening a customer portal as a gap, it may make more sense for companies to improve their online presence in order to make it more attractive. Instead of preparing for personal litigation, companies may want to evaluate the benefits of online dispute resolution. If we go in this direction, we may see some innovations in the tools offered.
It will be a long time before most people really feel comfortable at personal meetings. The assumption that September 2020 will look identical to September 2019 is irresponsibly optimistic. It is time to think about business models that work in uncertain times and build them up instead of going backwards. Out with the old and in with the new. As the Harris Teeter display shows, the results can be spectacular.
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