Who would have thought that we would see a period quite so transformative for the F&B industry as the one with which we are currently grappling? The question is — will the post-COVID world be a harbinger of change for food and beverage — one of the most impacted industries by the pandemic? This blog shares a perspective on this question.
To begin with, businesses must apply the lessons learned from the coronavirus crisis to ensure that their products, processes, and plans are more resilient, while their business models are more robust, sustainable and resource-efficient to prevent future shocks. This may even mean pivoting business models entirely to survive and eventually thrive in a post-COVID world.
Most F&B establishments are likely to explore cloud kitchens for delivery and takeaway as the primary revenue line, as contactless dining may take a while to be accepted by consumers. That being said, restaurants are opening up around the world, working persistently to make the entire dine-in experience as contactless and seamless as possible, introducing several innovations such as contactless payments and touch-free ordering. Moreover, consumers in restaurants in India will scrutinise innovations under a microscope when making the choice to eat out. Unless a restaurant owner or food entrepreneur makes a compelling and differentiated offering — keeping a food business afloat will be a challenge.
The scale of the current crisis has brought the global economy to a grinding halt. But as things assume a sense of normalcy, and economies begin to open up, the F&B industry is quickly scrambling to create a new “contactless” service design to evolve and adapt to the present times. The management and leadership of food companies have a pivotal role to play in steering the business towards a better future, by embracing innovation and adapting to change.
By putting in place many COVID-centric social distancing systems, brands can re-examine and explore opportunities to make this design as safe as possible, while also being cost-efficient to the extent possible. New standards of hygiene and safety will be established. One way of doing so is by conducting regular hygiene audits to build incremental customer confidence over time. Regular check-ups for employees or health-tie ups with medical establishments will also pave the way for health and hygiene. Material management processes will need to be in place to ensure thorough sourcing and cleaning of materials before putting them to use.
One innovation that is certainly creating waves in the F&B space is the cloud kitchen model. Not only do cloud or dark kitchens offer a low-cost alternative, but they also allow food entrepreneurs to launch multiple brands from the same outlet. An example of this is Smart Kitchen Company, a Delhi-based start-up, which is conducting extensive data analytics and market research to ensure that the profitability of their food partners increases manifold. The start-up is leveraging technology to ensure a seamless customer experience as well as efficient operations for food companies. Indeed, implementing technology and reducing human intervention to enable a better experience, greater hygiene, and lower costs is a logical way forward for food companies across the board.
Cloud kitchen companies are increasingly enhancing the food delivery and takeaway ecosystem. Smart Kitchen Company, for instance, is also offering a revenue share-free period of two months — a kind of buffer time for brands to revive their operations and protect jobs. Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic has presented an opportunity for the F&B industry to concoct recipes for change in adapting to the new reality. Contactless dining, hygiene protocols, technology enablement, and the cloud kitchen model are a few recipes in this regard. Let’s see who all rise to the challenge!