Coronavirus has changed everything, including how we eat, and long last impact on the food industry we can not overstate. Do you know that in March the restaurant industry lost $25 billion in revenue? By the end of 2019, the number soared up to $240 billion.
Paul Freeman, Harvard professor predicted that in future the Harvard professor Paul Freeman predicted sit-down dining and communal eating in general will see a sharp decline in the coming years, meaning the future of the restaurant industry itself is unclear.
Despite all the doom and gloom, however, we've seen something remarkable: examples of food entrepreneurs actually growing their businesses. There are two things these businesses are doing right now that I believe hold the keys to success in the post-COVID-19 restaurant industry.
First, they're going mobile to go where the customers are. And second, they're creatively incorporating order ahead (not just delivery).
They set up an order-ahead option so customers could pick up their food, and even allowed the public to request where and when the truck showed up. The customer focused approach paired with the truck's mobility meant showing up where there was existing demand, and it generated a good amount of daily revenue.
We've seen an increased demand to bring food into communities, specifically neighbourhoods and apartment buildings. Last week alone we worked with over 40 apartment property managers looking to bring a food truck to their tenants. Unlike delivery, a food truck showing up creates a culinary event to break up the monotony of the week. Plus (and this is a big plus), the food is prepared fresh and on location. People still crave the community aspect of eating out, and some trucks in our network have capitalized on that demand, even if they're just walking outside to pick up their dinner.
In a market where food must go to consumers (not vice versa), being constrained to a single location can be a disadvantage. Mobility is now a necessity to reach customers in their homes or as they start to visit parks, open spaces, and other areas.
Order-ahead instantly increases sales
Mobility combined with order-ahead has been the winning combination during the pandemic.
For the customer, order-ahead allows for a safer experience. Customers still get hot, fresh food from a truck, but are able to do so without standing in line with potentially large crowds. This kind of swift, efficient service is a major draw for health-conscious consumers who still want to participate in getting a delicious meal.
In some cases, over 50% of revenue has come from order-ahead sales. The coalescence of order-ahead and mobile dining recreates food experiences for a changing world; it preserves some social aspects of eating out, but does so while minimizing health risks now associated with indoor dining.
People miss dining out, and that's not going away
A recent Ipsos poll showed the majority of Americans would still feel uncomfortable going to bars and restaurants even once restrictions were lifted, unfortunately meaning COVID-19's effects on the restaurant industry will be long lasting. However, another poll indicated over two-thirds of Americans do long for their old routines, and going to bars and restaurants tops the list of the most missed social activities.
No matter what happens, people need to eat, and food has an intrinsic link to community, occasion, and ceremony. We expect the demand for these types of services to grow as mobility and order-ahead both becoming necessities.
Together, they allow food businesses to reach customers where they live, work, and play — and give us all a taste of what the world was like before this madness just months ago.