The food service industry has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous restaurants around the globe have been shut down, and many have lost their jobs. This also leaves everyone wondering, what does the future hold for our dine-out option? How will the food service industry adapt and evolve?
These are unprecedented times, but if any catastrophe is a true catalyst of change, then we can definitely expect colossal innovation and modification in the food service industry to meet the changing customer behaviour and expectations.
Since safety and hygiene have become more paramount than ever, restaurateurs will have to seek innovation and modify their business models for a new post-lockdown era. Right from supply chain to high hygiene standards and redesigning restaurant layouts for better dining experiences, everything will have to be looked at with a new perspective.
Right now, we all are in a new anxious territory, where people are constantly worried about their health, their loss of freedom, and how the future looks like. The current crisis has certainly influenced people’s lives in every way possible, and it is obvious that there are common concerns, which will lead to a changing consumer behaviour.
Even in these changing times, we can’t say that the on-premise dining will completely cease to exist, but at the same time consumers are going to be in favour of digital ordering, which was an already growing trend among consumers. Takeaways and home deliveries will see an increase in demand. As a result, traditional restaurants will have to alter their business models to include online options and embrace delivery-centric operations.
The current state of affairs demands all of us to keep safety and hygiene standards at the highest priority. Safety and Hygiene will be critical for restaurants to win customers’ trust. The food service industry will experience serious, striking, and permanent changes in the way it operates. Restaurants and other food outlets will have more conscious consumers and they will have to put extra effort into elevating their safety and hygiene standards. It will be supremely crucial that the staff and the premises follow the best in class practices to keep their employees and customers safe. Hence, the need for food and premise safety auditing has become all the more important for restaurants to assure their customers that they are doing their best to offer secure services.
Third party auditing and certification agencies like Equinox Labs are going to be a massive help for the food businesses out to strengthen their food safety and hygiene initiatives by timely and regular inspections. Certification like Safe Place to Dine identifies and recognizes the efforts of the restaurants in keeping their customers safe. And Hygiene Quotient is an app-based service that helps by verifying your site evidence in real-time, suggests improvements, and generates a daily score.
Food quality will continue to be the most important element for customers, but the hygiene and safety standard of the restaurant will be increasingly vital for the consumers now. This new trend where the consumers, increasing proclivity towards the hygiene and clean environment to dine-in is not going anywhere, but only accelerate.
There are many innovative ways the dining-out experience will witness a change, such as reducing common touch points, providing digital tokens, use of QR codes for scanning, contactless dining and payment options. All these changes are to induce trust among customers. People will prefer touchless options, automatic doors, and noticeable cleaning and sanitization processes more. Pre-ordering will become a thing, so that the food is already ready by the time the customer reaches the restaurant. The dining, food making and processing setup will be changed to ensure physical distancing.
We all know that this pandemic has had a disruptive global effect. International trade has been massively hit, food processing facilities and markets are shut down. This will result in a surge in demand for local food companies. There is also a psychological factor at play here, which is changing and shaping the consumer outlook. They are more conscious of where their foods come from, as food produced locally is less prone to the viral spread and hasn’t been interchanged hands many times. Hence, their shift towards more locally grown produce makes sense.
Looking at the way this pandemic has changed and affected lives, consumers cannot be expected to go back to their old behavioural pattern any time soon. The transition of going back to the old normal will take a long time or may never even happen. Therefore, one of the other things food service businesses can consider is to directly reach out to their consumers through digital mediums, bolster their customer relationships, and enhance their brand presence. The post-lockdown era consumer will be over-cautious and vigilant about their health, hygiene, and stepping out in public. Hence, the overall approach of the food service industry will have to change according to the changing consumer sentiment to maintain its relevance.