COVID-19 put the entire world on hold for more than a year, disrupting businesses, blocking supply chains, and ultimately changing our normal daily life forever. Countless foodservice brands have closed their doors permanently because they were unable to adapt to these circumstances.
But what should you do in a post COVID world? How can you adapt your current food service brand or start a new one and maximize your chances of success?
Focus on Convenience and Delivery
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers were forced to make difficult decisions about what they consumed – literally. With restaurants closed for dine-in in most areas, and people concerned about the spread of the infectious disease, innovative restaurant owners pivoted to provide more pickup and delivery options. Instead of walking in and eating your meal at a table, you could pick it up to go or have it dropped off at your house.
Over time, and combined with the increased prevalence of remote work, people have grown accustomed to highly convenient forms of food purchasing and consumption. Even though they can have a meal like they did before the pandemic, they still prefer pickup and delivery options. Pickup and delivery services are practical musts, but you also must spend effort improving convenience for your customers; if it’s too hard to order, or if your deliveries are inconsistent, you’re not going to be successful.
Double Down on Marketing and Visibility
Foodservice marketing is playing a bigger role than ever, since consumers have so many options to choose from. Instead of driving around to look for a restaurant, most people are using their phones and computers to conduct searches and discover new interesting places.
Accordingly, you need to invest heavily in digital marketing and shopper marketing, so you can target the demographics most likely to buy from you and reach them in their preferred digital world.
If you don’t have much experience in the marketing and advertising world, your best bet is to work with a dedicated marketing agency. Your agency will work with you to understand your goals, set high-level objectives, and choose the ground-level tactics most likely to get more patrons through your doors.
Have a Plan for Staffing Shortages
Foodservice establishments everywhere are feeling the pain of staffing shortages. Fewer people are interested in working, yet demand has not abated. Restaurants all over the country, especially in less densely populated areas, have been forced to close simply because they don’t have enough workers to stay open.
If you want to be successful, you need to find a strategy to overcome this. Fortunately, there are several options. You can incentivize more workers to join your ranks by offering better pay and better benefits. You can incorporate more automation systems so you’re less reliant on human workers. You can even streamline food processing and ordering to remain operational even with a skeleton crew.
Stay Adaptable in the Face of Supply Issues
True food shortages are unlikely to occur in the United States in the near future, though many developed countries throughout the rest of the world are struggling. Even if you don’t have to deal with limited supplies of the food ingredients you need most, you may be forced to deal with higher prices.
The straightforward way to approach this is to increase your menu prices in line with the cost of production. But with so many customers dealing with the pain of inflation, this could ultimately reduce your sales. It may be a better strategy, in some cases, to find alternative ingredients, reduce portion sizes, or use other clever methods to keep your prices the same while cutting costs on the back end.
Think Beyond Food: Provide More Value
Foodservice isn’t just about food; it’s also about service. If you want to win more customers and keep them indefinitely, you need to find ways to provide more value to the people buying from you. There are many ways you can do this, from making customers feel more welcomed and appreciated to offering peripheral services that your customers need.
Encourage Brand Loyalty
Brand loyalty is a complex topic, and it’s more important than ever for foodservice brands. Higher rates of brand loyalty result in more frequent repeat purchases and less threats from external competition. Simple strategies, like offering a rewards program and hosting customer appreciation days, could be all it takes to keep your best customers loyal.
Diversify Your Income Streams
Finally, consider diversifying your income streams. Sell many different products and services at your establishment so you can make more money and build up a better defense system in case primary sales tank.
It’s not an easy time to be a foodservice business owner. But with these strategies and a bit of ingenuity, you can make the most of these circumstances.