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Learning from today, to build a brighter tomorrow


The events of the last few months have seen immense changes and challenges thrust upon everyone in our foodservice industry. Business owners, employees and our customers have all been required to adapt, improvise and overcome every unprecedented barrier placed before us.

Now more than ever we’ve all had to re-evaluate our systems and behaviours to address this ongoing challenge and the limitations of doing business in a pandemic. While these changes we’ve made were for the most part born out of necessity, many of these learning’s will continue to prove useful long term. Lets take a look at which of these new approaches will become standard practice moving forward to a brighter tomorrow.

Prioritising hygiene, health and safety

There’s no mistaking the intense spotlight placed upon health and safety right now, especially given our current predicament. While we’re all used to the strict regulations governing our industry, the urgent need to reassure the public and build consumer confidence is key to our recovery.

From our kitchens to packaging and delivery, every aspect of the foodservice process is under the microscope. How are we addressing social distancing? Which areas of interaction are a potential cause for concern? How can we protect staff, delivery drivers and our consumers? How do we make people feel safe?

Recent surveys show 60% of consumers agree that a restaurant’s commitment to hygiene and enforcement of the rules is more important now than it was before the pandemic1.

Clearly demonstrating your commitment to the new regulations, to social distancing, hygiene and safety practices is an excellent way to address potential concerns and earn the trust of your customers. Ensure you highlight all the health and safety practices you’ve implemented in your communications, on signage and especially on social media.

Remain active and transparent with your customer base

Many business owners are actively using social to reach out customers in their community for much needed support. Clear communication is key to connecting with potential customers, to share your menu and gain their trust.

On the flipside of this, individuals continue to look to social media for updates on the status and availability of all their favourite local restaurants and cafés. Many of us were already using Facebook and instagram to decide our next takeaway meal, but media experts believe this trend will only increase further as they become a more widely accepted source of information. These behaviours and habits formed during the lockdown will continue, with consumers searching more and more on digital channels2.

How can you take advantage of this? Simply embrace the trend and add a little creativity to your social media to help you stand out from the crowd. Use your social media presence to provide a human face to your business and create a lasting connection. Feature contests or share heart warming stories, safety updates or your revised menu. Diverse, engaging content should become a focus point of every restaurant’s marketing strategy moving forward. With the lockdowns in place, delivery and takeaway are already are feature of the modern dining ecosystem, which means giving your business an appealing online storefront has never been more important.

Create a smaller, more focussed menu

Many restaurants and cafés have already made the smart decision to reduce their menu offering, since fewer menu options means fewer risks and higher profits.

The key to creating a streamlined menu for your customers is to focus on your most popular dishes without sacrificing diversity (like vegetarian and gluten free options). Quality remains as important as ever, so if you’re concerned about costs, simply use a limited number of high quality ingredients across multiple dishes for efficiency.

With this in mind, cheese ticks all the right boxes. As an ingredient it can deliver an interesting, complex touch to your dishes and it blends incredibly well with many different types of cuisine.

Here’s some additional tips to get you started:

  • Remove items with lower margins
  • Offer promotional bundles: families are eating together more often and deals make takeaway a more permissible and appealing option. Bundle deals will also help you move more product per purchase
  • Consider setting up your dining room with a dedicated area for take-out: an increased focus on off-premises consumption may be a part of the new normal
  • You may want to arrange tables to be mindful of physical distancing, since government regulations are likely to mandate distancing inside of restaurants
  • Don’t overlook side dishes. Although you want to keep a reduced menu, side dishes are often high margin items that are easy to make.

Diversify your revenue streams

Our experts anticipate the lines between different foodservice channels will become blurred in the near future.

For example, many businesses have offered alternatives to the traditional restaurant experience since dine in options were no longer possible. 79% of consumers said they missed the dining experience most in the past few months and original ideas were more than welcomed3. To address this need, meal kits have become a popular approach and a fun way for consumers to enjoy restaurant food while developing their cooking skills.

This idea could be implemented in your core business model for the long run. If you don’t want to create complete meal kits, you could still package and sell your homemade pasta or pizza sauce, fresh pasta, signature spice mixes, hot sauces, pizza or pastry dough. Offer up your unique specialty! Consider this also for frozen or pre-cooked dishes like pizza and lasagna, so customers can still enjoy your food at home.

Creativity and resourcefulness has provided many foodservice businesses with added resilience through these tough times. Once our industry recovers, it will be important to reflect on what you’ve learned from the last few months and how your restaurant can evolve for the future. Business models and menus are always in a state of change but the ability to adapt and improvise is the key to a brighter future for us all.

1 COVID-19 Foodservice Sentiment Study Canada – The NPD Group, Inc. 2020.
2 COVID-19 Foodservice Sentiment Study Canada – The NPD Group, Inc. 2020.
3 COVID-19 Foodservice Sentiment Study Canada – The NPD Group, Inc. 2020.