LESSONS OF A PANDEMIC

  1. Goodbye fear-hello caution
    • Americans continue to adapt to new normal-hand sanitizers, masks, physical distancing
    • Studies have shown that to consumers, restaurants cleanliness and food safety procedures will always matter more now more than it did before.    
    • Spending money is tighter for consumers so pricing awareness became more prevalent. People feel prices are higher at grocery store than restaurants. However, in spite of this awareness they are still willing to pay more at this time for food and grocery store purchases.
    • Over 60% consumers are still concerned about coronavirus, getting sick, eating out, and therefore increase cooking at home, curbside and food deliveries on the rise.  Out of these concerns came many new foods and purchasing habits.
  2. Food Trends have been accelerated as a result of relocation in the USA
    • Moving location trends as a result of remote working, COVID-19 positive cases density in certain areas, and volume of people in urban areas have been the catalysts.
    • Most influx to Idaho followed by the states of New Mexico and Delaware
    • The diversity of consumers influx affects needs and availability of food choices in that locality- restaurants’ cuisines options, grocery stores, delivery options, meal kits and staffing
  3. Automation
    • Contactless options for ordering, drive thru, payment
    • Importance of ability to navigate easily on foodservice sites
    • QR codes availability
    • Consumer friendly online ordering software
    • Increase of robotics-e.g., ramen, baristas, smoothies, sally the robots (replacing hot and cold salad bars), burgers flipping, dishwashing, 3D food printing for use in tedious tasks, increase efficiencies, increase of food safety, minimize touch points.
  4. Delivery Options
    • Food delivery in all localities, urban, suburban and rural have escalated via direct and third-party partners. This option enabled restaurants, retail venues and supermarkets to increase revenue stream. It allowed virtual brands to generate revenue fast and created the perfect environment to proliferate in 2020.
    • Curbside pickup allowed another revenue opportunity with no additional costs. Retail foodservice quickly realized they could turn their parking lots into de facto drive-thrus with the help of technology and a little creativity. Roughly 70% of restaurants added curbside during the pandemic, up from 15% before, according to research firm Incisiv—and many plan to continue it. Fast casuals are building curbside capabilities into new prototypes, and full-service chains such as Texas Roadhouse are working to improve the service with things like two-way text messaging.
    • Ghost kitchens and virtual brands have evolved due to availability of delivery options. Thousands of restaurants began adding these off-premise-only concepts that exist solely online, often producing multiple of them alongside their existing menu
    • Great opportunity for restaurants/retail venues to show off to customers who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in a takeaway meal.   Takeaway customers give the restaurant an opportunity to make conversation, establish a relationship and make them feel comfortable. Maximize great mutual communication via social media.  Ease of website menu viewing and ordering are essential to experience coupled with handling of food, holding of food for pick up, menu choices, disposables options plus service attitude of both order taker and delivery person.
  5. Food
    • Healthier items offered on restaurant menus and grocery stores-e. g. Chipotle- cilantro-lime cauliflower rice, sustainable type of products-seaweed
    • Plant based eating increased. Dataessentail studies show that there are 53% meat eaters, 69% others. Others include flexitarian (no red meat), vegetarian, vegan, polloterian, and pescatarian which validates the trend toward more plant-based consumption
    • More fermented consumption of products-fermented honey, chicory coffee, herbal beverages/coffee
    • Immunity and mind boosting products-immunity is the new sustainability
    • Cannabis course meals, candies, drinks
    • Reinvention of foods-e.g., nut butters, quinoa, cauliflower crusts/rice
    • Reimaging and engagement of regional cuisine
  6. Virtual Restaurant Experiences
    • Gaining an audience via the following initiatives and developing a following, connection, brand recognition, and/or another revenue stream.
      • Chef-guided virtual cooking classes
      • Guided virtual tastings, pairings, and classes
      • Virtual winery or brewery collabs
      • Virtual team building
      • Virtual classes to fight meal fatigue by supermarkets. Series of free virtual classes provide quick and affordable solutions to eliminate meal fatigue and spark inspiration in your kitchen this year-The Giant Company
      • Movie and a meal- movie food menus that coincide with release of streaming movies.
  7. Made in the USA is important to consumers and want to support local manufacturers, producers, equipment, and restaurants
  8. Family and holiday meal bundles
    • People stuck at home, restaurants began offering family meal packages designed to easily feed entire households, streamlining the menu and easing operations in the process. When the holidays rolled around, restaurants used the same concept to offer large-format feasts for groups ranging in size from two to 10.  
    • The idea appears to have legs with consumers: Delivery provider Postmates reported that orders of family meals increased by 175% year over year. And 73% of diners said they’d be likely to order a family meal bundle even after restaurants reopen, according to Technomic’s 2020 Delivery and Takeout Consumer Trend Report.
  9. Subscription programs
    • Multiple restaurant brands ventured into subscriptions in 2020, none more successfully than Panera Bread. The chain’s $8.99 monthly unlimited coffee program boasted 500,000 paid subscribers as of October, and 90% of that business was incremental.
  10. Outdoor dining. Persistent limits on indoor dining meant restaurants had to look outside their four walls to serve customers on-site. In addition to existing patios, they made creative use of parking lots and other spaces—Cracker Barrel, for instance, replaced the rocking chairs on its old-timey covered porch with tables and chairs. Some municipalities helped out by closing down streets or devoting other public spaces—and funding—to outdoor dining. In cold-weather areas, outdoor heaters flew off the shelves, and a variety of contests and grants looked to help restaurants fund outdoor operations through the winter. Consider placement of warming and/or holding equipment, tray covering for plates and offering hand held warmers for inside gloves. Walk and see the experience through your customers eyes to come up with the best solutions for the best experiences. For many restaurants, the added capacity had a significant impact to revenue. I wouldn’t be a surprise to see some of those dining room extensions become permanent.

The pandemic impacts have changed foodservice.  Insights into changing behaviors can allows you to think about touch points and solutions to help exceed customer expectations, loyalty, operation efficiencies, labor needs and revenue success.  I believe 2021 will begin the healing.  Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Abraham Lincoln

Passionately, Marsha

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