The pandemic caused by COVID-19 managed to disrupt reality and changed the way we live forever. Every business that we know of was impacted and faced with an uncertain future. 

The food and beverage industry took a major hit in the form of reduced consumption and supply chain disruption challenges. 

The restaurants, cafes, delis, etc, that make up a big part of the food and beverage industry, were affected severely by the lockdowns implemented in India and across the world, leading to some restaurants shutting down their business. 

According to an article published in the Economic Times, “Most restaurants in India and around the world work on slim 10%-15% EBITDA margins with hardly three weeks of cash flow. One of the largest in the service sector, this industry contributes around 3% to the GDP of India and is its single largest employer with more than 73 lakhs people on its payrolls, Industry estimates suggest that one in every four restaurants in India may never open again, and NRAI estimates that over 22 lakh people employed within the industry will lose jobs as losses shoot as high as Rs. 1,00,000 Crores. Even as the lockdown is lifted, this industry would never be able to go back to ‘business as usual’ in the foreseeable future.”

According to WHO guidelines for the food and beverage industry, “The main priority is to keep the virus out of the food environment. Several key measures are required including upgrading of cleaning and sanitation measures, disinfecting surfaces and high-touch points, educating staff on the virus and how to protect themselves and others, reinforcing protocols such as physical distancing, hand washing, and improved security with people staying in their vehicles/sanitizing hands when handing out documents and other material.” 

Faced with such an adverse situation, now more than ever the food and beverage industry, especially restaurants need a solid strategy to help them adapt and evolve as quickly as they can to survive in the ‘new normal’.  Studying and analyzing the changing shifts in the industry and consumer behaviors has led to a few observations that can be converted into effective strategies: 

1) Order In or Dine Out: It’s the consumer’s choice now.

With the ‘Work from Home’ culture and the rise of ‘Conscious Consumers’, restaurants will have to quickly adapt to the changing nature of how consumers consume food in/from restaurants. The pandemic has expedited the process for restaurants in India and around the world to offer restaurant-style food delivered at the comfort of the homes of consumers.  

If consumers do choose to dine out, they would prefer restaurants that can offer outdoor seating as to sitting indoors to avoid getting in contact with people. Consumers, who still suffer from anxiety of contracting the virus from dining indoors, even though they do choose to overcome this fear, would prefer dining in restaurants where ample space and social distancing norms are practiced. This would force restaurants to operate at half their usual capacity and apply the norms of social distancing strictly. 

2) Sanitation and Hygiene: Everything needs to be as clean as possible. 

This strategy should become the gospel truth for all restaurants and every one belonging to the foodservice industry. All food and beverage items in restaurants must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized including the surfaces or serve wear that is used. As WHO rightly mentioned in their guidelines, all measures must be taken to keep the virus out of the food and beverages. 

3) Food workers must maintain hygiene at all costs. 

According to the WHO, “The food workers working in the food and beverage industry must maintain physical distancing, good personal hygiene with frequent hand washing, and application of general food hygiene measures are the most important precautions food workers should adopt. Physical distancing is very important to help slow the spread of coronavirus. This is achieved by minimizing contact between potentially infected individuals and healthy individuals. Frequent handwashing with soap and water and use of hand sanitizers are also important in reducing the risk of transmission. All food businesses should follow the physical distancing and handwashing.”

4) The future is DIGITAL.

Digital innovation in terms of payments, delivery logistics, had started to gain momentum much before the pandemic struck, in the food and beverage industry. The only thing is that the pandemic forced the food and beverage industry to implement this strategy in months rather than years. During the lockdown, consumers had the choice to order food through apps and digital platforms, the same was the case with groceries too. After the lockdown was lifted, consumers adapted to digital menus offered by restaurants and eateries. This trend will continue to exist in the coming future. 

According to an article published in the Economic Times, “With popular restaurants likely to be operating at 50 percent or less of total capacity to ensure social distancing, apps that offer diners online reservation and pre-ordering and waitlist management that helps minimize table turn-times, further shortening the queue of people waiting to be served will prove to be critical. Restaurants will have to partake in online consumer awareness exercises to inform diners about the measures and precautions they are taking to ensure that their restaurants are safe. Thermal scanning will become the new metal detection in the post COVID era, and restaurants & public places will have to make it mandatory to check temperatures not only for their staff but also for diners.”

5) Convenience + Sustainability 

The birth of conscious consumerism in the food and beverage industry has led to a change in food consumption patterns. Convenience food no longer consists of only fast food. Consumers need convenience food that aligns with their beliefs of food being organic, eco-friendly, and produced using sustainable means. Immunity boosting food and beverages have also gained immense popularity thanks to the pandemic. 

The lockdown forced all the consumers to stay at home, which led to the concept of responsible consumption. There was a switch from cow milk to plant-based alternatives such as almond milk and soy milk in the diets of consumers. 

The food and beverage industry will need a long term strategy combining convenience, responsible consumerism, and sustainability.   

To help businesses in the food and beverage industry adapt to the ‘new normal’ and make them ‘future-ready’, HPG Consulting has played a major role in helping these businesses survive with the strategies planned out by their consultants. HPG Consulting is India’s leading consultancy in the Food & Beverage business with a team of the best consultants. 

HPG’s Restaurant consultants are the best minds equipped at studying and analyzing changing industry landscapes and implementing solid strategies tailored to their clients. 

If you belong to a business in the food and beverage industry, or you’re a seeker, get in touch with a food and beverage consultant today at HPG Consulting. Honestly, they are the best people to guide you with innovation in the food and beverage industry.