Blog > Back to Work Post Pandemic
The future of operators and distributors in the foodservice industry
For more than a year now companies have been meeting to discuss what their businesses may look like and how they will emerge from shutdowns caused by COVID-19. While nobody has a crystal ball, the efforts, and directions many companies within the foodservice industry have taken in response to the Pandemic are shaping the future of business within the industry everywhere.
As companies large and small looked to become more efficient and leverage as many sales channels as they could, they brought about new conveniences that have been happily received by consumers. These conveniences include services such as out-door dining, online ordering, new menu options, and environmentally friendly packaging.
Major changes did not occur solely between the distributor and the operator; they were and are in every aspect of commerce. While life during a global pandemic brought numerous challenges to almost every aspect of business, unexpected opportunities emerged to make the most of the given situations. Those that were agile enough to leverage the opportunities will certainly be the ones leading the food service industry to a new standard.
To continue adapting with the ever-changing times, the job of both operators and distributors is no longer a question of if to leverage these new opportunities but how to get started.
Initiatives for foodservice distributors
As we emerge from the pandemic with the continuous roll out of vaccines, there are key actions and trends that distributors should follow to benefit not only themselves, but their customers as well, which will aid in maintaining the partnership between the two.
- Distributors should take the time to train staff about the Federal, State and Local guidelines, ordinances & mandates that will affect their customers’ operations.
- Vendors should be sharing new products and packaging that are COVID driven, such as to-go packaging. Customers and prospects will then be aware of the opportunities that they may want or need to take advantage of.
When it comes to prospects, it’s important to note they will not look the same as they did pre-pandemic. With the shift in business from in person dining to take-out and prepared to-go convenience items, prospects and customers are reinventing themselves. While many restaurants have closed permanently, many of those locations are being turned into ghost kitchens, enhancing the delivery model that has boomed during the pandemic.
It’s an imperative time to find what B2B and B2C business models work for you and an even greater time to discover new ways to connect with prospects and customers. Their world has changed as much as yours so any advice and/or observations that can be shared will be well received and appreciated.
Certifications are amazing credentials to have and advertise, but only if they are up to date. As more states reach new levels of re-opening, leveraging renewed certifications with customers will further create dependency on your services. Most states require certifications to be renewed on some regular basis and with that will come new procedures, rules and opportunities.
Initiatives for foodservice operators
While many operators continue to face the challenge of being unable to open completely, for some the cause is no longer related to seating limitations. Instead, it is due to the shortage of employees. Many of the former employees that lost their jobs as a result of the health crisis have switched industries and are unwilling to come back to an uncertain future.
Many restaurants must shut down a few days a week as there is not enough help to support full time business. In a 3-part blog series, the Restaurant Dive explores the current labor shortage hitting the restaurant industry [read more here]. Taking steps to form strong relationships with culinary schools and associations will aid in potentially guiding prospective employees to customers in need.
In general, this is a great time to work with your customers to bring about the changes that will enable them to have a prosperous future – with your company squarely in their corner. Take the time to work with them to edit their menu, train them on the new items and changes, and help them to update or create an employee training manual. Everything you do and share with them will only enhance their dependency on your services.
How crowd-sourced reviews from consumers are changing the game
One of the most pressing concerns that halted the food service business was concerns for health and safety. Some crowd-sourced business review and social networking sites and apps, such as Yelp, Google, and OpenTable, developed tools that focused on that concern. This creates a greater transparency between business to consumer (B2C) than previously existed pre-pandemic.
These resources provide information to consumers that can greatly aid business growth for those who leverage it. Particularly those in the restaurant industry and small businesses. Not only does this provide easily accessible reviews from the average consumer regarding a business’s food, environment, services, and staff, but it serves to keep consumers informed about what to expect from businesses as they grapple with COVID-19 restrictions.
One of Yelp’s latest, successful features that may pave the way for even more review-based websites and apps, is a dedicated space at the top of each listing that allows businesses to share news about their current state of operation. Yelp co-founder and CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, reported overall consumer interest spiked 41 percent for businesses that provided COVID-19 updates in their listings during the last four months of 2020.
Consumers look for dedicated health and safety measures that include social distancing, sanitizing stations, capacity limits, temperature checks, contactless payments, contactless menus, and enforcement of masks and/or gloves for staff.
High school student, Anish Jha developed the crowd-sourced review-based app, Prober, in 2020. The app’s purpose is to create communication between consumers on which businesses are taking health and safety measures. Individuals using Prober can find the nearest restaurants, cafes, bars, and stores based on their location. They can view ratings given by other customers based on safety precautions and leave their own ratings after entering a location.
Advertising Prober ratings for a business that you represent or own is currently free. For foodservice operators, apps such as these are great tools to capitalize on.
The importance of tools such as these lie in the fact that ordering in and dining out is no longer as quick and simple as it was. Checking in on an establishment’s health requirements, reviews, and ratings has become a necessity. All foodservice operators should be aware of these resources to optimize their products and services.
Solutions for the foodservice industry
Among the most important and useful resources for food distributors is foodservice software that offers information throughout the supply chain and creates greater transparency between businesses. With the increasing levels of difficulties involving labor shortages, traceability requirements, inventory control, and buyer performance, distributors and operators need to reinvent their business models. To remain successful, business models need to handle unique requirements without limitations in flexibility and scalability.
By using the Ignition platform, customers will benefit from an end-to-end solution that provides complete visibility throughout the enterprise.
Request a demo to learn more about the solutions that will place your company or business a step ahead of the rest. Follow Ignition by TELUS on LinkedIn and stay up to date on our latest events and future blog posts.