Serving Up a Dish of… Change
Every aspect of the food and drink sector is likely to see change; from dining out, ordering food, supplies and distribution, to the social dynamic and ambience of the eating and drinking establishment itself.
Changing the menu
The food and drink sector suffered more than most as a result of the effects of coronavirus. Sales plummeted following industry-wide closures, staff were furloughed or laid-off, and orders to suppliers dried up. In the U.S., The National Restaurant Association estimates the restaurant industry lost $80 billion through April and could lose $240 billion by the end of the year.
In March, when lawmakers started ordering closures, a blackboard sign posted in front of a local restaurant and bar in Los Angeles, CA sums up the general sentiment felt by owners and employees at the time: If you would like to know how it feels to be in hospitality during this coronavirus pandemic? Remember when the Titanic was sinking, and the band continued to play? Well, we’re the band.
However, in the U.S. the food and drink sector is showing signs of normalcy as many restaurants and bars are reopening. Eating establishments are beginning to allow small groups of patrons in at a time, albeit with limits on venue capacity. Additional precautions have also been introduced, such as enforcing social distancing by separating tables six feet from each other, making sure wait staff and employees wear masks and possibly taking patrons’ temperature upon entry.
Even during the lockdown, in order to keep trading, many establishments exercised their entrepreneurial spirit by finding new and interesting ways to keep their businesses afloat. These ideas are continuing with many restaurants now offering food and alcohol delivery or drive-up services, as well as in-house farmer’s market sales of fruits, bottled juices, eggs, vegetables, and baked goods. Food and drink has always been an innovative sector, built on identifying trends and consumers tastes change and no doubt owners will continue to reinvent new revenue streams to mitigate thinner margins and to keep their doors open.
What happens next within the sector is uncertain. Many eating and drinking businesses will need to apply for financial assistance from the government or lenders to help kick start their business. Support will also be needed from the sector’s regulatory authorities in relaxing certain rules and regulations. For example, some cities are considering short-term parking areas in front of food-oriented businesses to allow for easy, accessible curbside pick-up or delivery as a way to help increase and promote business.
Areas of opportunity
The interdependent relationship with suppliers is vital to the food and drink sector. Many food suppliers are a one-stop-shop service that provides thousands of product lines that keep restaurants and bars operating; items such as condiments, cooking oil, various mixes and sauces, fruits and vegetables, bulk ingredients, meat and seafood, paper plates, napkins, trash bags, and more.
Suppliers also provide alcohol and nonalcoholic beverages along with their respected garnishes of lemons, limes, cherries, olives — all which constitutes a substantial 18 to 20 percent of a restaurant’s sales.
There are new also recommendations to cater for. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that restaurateurs consider using disposable dishware for patrons who worry about hygiene, contact with the virus, and from an environmental level. Disposables could pose a new problem for eating and drinking establishments as the demand for trash pick-up and plastic trash bags could increase, but also a whole growth segment for suppliers.
Adapting to the new normal
The last few months have seen sales decline for many wholesalers and distributors, and what were once regular orders, with a consistent volume will have been impacted for many suppliers.
As restaurants continue to adapt to the new normal and experiment with business delivery models like ghost kitchens, virtual restaurants or revolving menu selections, food suppliers will need to have deeper insights into their inventories along with access to customer data, sales metrics, regional selling performance of products, product data quality, and regional trends.
sales-i has extensive expertise and experience working with the complexities of and collecting vital data for food and drink suppliers. sales-i enables sales teams to have access to timely data via mobile or tablets so they can manage inventories better, understand what product line sales are falling dropping off as well as what is increasing. Food suppliers can better serve eating and drinking establishments by being prepared to make quick decisions, especially in these transitive times and ultimately continue to sell.
Restaurants and bars have historically come and gone, it’s a competitive business. Since the coronavirus, a further set of challenges; from cash flow to meeting stringent health demands from lawmakers will add to that challenge.
“Once ‘normal’ operations resume, virtually every restaurant in this country, from the favorite diner to the local icon, will be a virtual startup in desperate need of cash,” Sean Kennedy, Executive Vice President of the National Restaurant Association.
One thing is for sure, the future of eating out has changed for the foreseeable future. Restaurants will have to carefully manage margins and monitor their bottom line even more diligently than ever. Faster, better analytic tools will be needed to measure and achieve profits for the organizations that supply them. That enticing and interesting aroma coming from restaurant kitchens nowadays is the smell of a new dish called — change.
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