The food industry has come upon unprecedented times in the age of COVID-19. As a food-service operator, chances are you did all your pre-COVID research. You read the books, watched the shows, attended the webinars, you may have even traveled to national conferences, all with a focus on growing your business. At the start of 2020, whether your business was gaining the momentum you had worked so hard to achieve, or you were still battling some outstanding challenges, nothing could have prepared any of us for what was lurking on the horizon.
COVID-19 altered the landscape of the industry and forced millions of lives to change almost overnight. The hope that many of us felt in our efforts to build our business began to fade, and strategies that were once promising became a thing of the past.
Before COVID-19 struck, statistics from The National Restaurant Association reported that the food-service industry was averaging +900 billion dollars a year and climbing, with more than 22 billion dollars coming from corporate catering. Unfortunately, those figures plummeted as food-service operations were forced to close their doors in order to limit the spread of the virus.
In the early months of the pandemic, operators struggled to survive the crisis, but many found the strength to pivot. Business models began to change. Restaurants launched massive curb-side pick-up operations and corporate caterers became family caterers. Third-party implementation became a relied upon source of generating more income, something that many restaurants had previously installed, but was not as common in the catering arena.
The current state of the industry is a labor-intensive market where timing and logistical planning can (and will) be the difference between a client choosing you or choosing another operation. Since many operators are now preparing food for a different clientele, using a range of unconventional methods, timing is everything.
With the wide-range of your new target market, you need to adapt to the demands of your consumer; families, those working-from home, parents managing remote or hybrid learning models, front-line workers and your neighbors, to name a few. You may even be among the fortunate operators who still find opportunities for your corporate catering division, which has morphed from packed offices serving buffet style lunches and sandwich platters, to orders consisting of individually packaged items and boxed lunches for a limited staff of essential employees only.
However, just like pre-COVID-19, the primary expectations are the same
regardless of who your clientele is. Of primary importance, you must know that late deliveries and take-out orders that are not ready on time will most likely be a deal-breaker.
In a recent survey of 1000 eaters, when asked what they think the most important thing is in a restaurant/caterer, given the options;
a) taste of food
c) on-time pick-up/delivery
...Overwhelmingly c) on-time pick-up/delivery was THE most important
*followed by d) presentation, a) taste of food and b) price*
Your customer base is tired. They are stressed. They are alongside you feeling the same anxiety and pressure that you feel in this climate. They want their food fast and they want it ready on time. This is only a step, but nonetheless, a vital one.
We have worked with hundreds of caterers, restaurateurs and food-service operators from the start of this pandemic to help operations pivot their model and strategies. We are here now to help you write your comeback story. The road ahead is not going to be easy, but it is not a dead end. We have created a model that works within this climate, and we want to share our experience and our clients’ success stories with you. We have discovered tips, tools and trade secrets, and together we can not only help you survive, but successfully overcome this challenge. Step one is to start with our recently launched E-Learning Center.
Let’s rethink, rebuild and reimagine!