Until we have a vaccine or develop successful treatments Covid-19 is here to stay. As such, each industry, business and sole trader will have to adapt to this new world. We have no idea whether Covid-19 is going to become a seasonal illness, prompting our society into different degrees of social distancing every year to reduce the replication rate as much as possible. Certainly, for the short and medium term, a lot of normal practice is going to have to change even after we reopen completely.
So, for an industry that is based on people coming together in physical proximity and sharing food together, how will we keep going?
One answer we at Just Catering have been investigating recently is the possibility of having a sandwich kiosk in a busy area that will allow passers-by to buy sandwiches and drinks on the way to work. Of course, with any new business venture, we need to make sure that the idea is viable.
So, what questions have we asked ourselves, and what questions should other catering businesses ask themselves when aiming to open up a new outlet for their business?
Is it a quality product?
Sometimes, really awful products, marketed well, can sell. But in our line of work, a poor product will not compete in a highly competitive market; people simply won’t eat it!
Thankfully, we know our sandwiches are excellent. Our customers regularly comment on the taste of this product, which is why we have decided to take this area of our business in a new direction. Made with high quality produce and luxury fillings fresh on site, we know we have a product that can sell. This is what will set us apart from basic sandwiches anyone can buy from a supermarket.
In addition, we have scalability within our production line. So, with the right packaging, we think we have a potential quality product that can do well.
Is the economic mood right for your product at the moment?
It is likely that indoor mass gatherings are going to be banned for a long time to come. This means many canteens in factories and offices around the country are not going to be used; employees are going to have to bring their own food to work. This is when a sandwich kiosk comes in handy: social distancing can be practised when queuing, food hygiene standards are at the highest they can be, so the risk of transmission from that area is minimal, open air trading is much less likely to result in transmission of the illness.
Therefore, as we have seen in other areas of the catering industry on the news, expect takeaway options to be a mainstay of future business plans. People are definitely going to want more choice when it comes to takeaway food.
Who is your target user?
You need to identify your potential customer base for any new business. User personas are a good way of identifying target users. In my example below, you can see that I have invented a person called “Tom” who works up in town (the area I think that I would like our sandwich outlet to be). To help me flesh out how to turn “Tom” into a user of my new kiosk, I have brainstormed his needs, goals, traits and pain points in relation to getting himself fed on a set working day.
From this, we can make decisions on how to set up the kiosk to maximise the chance that someone like “Tom” would like to buy from us. Maybe “Tom” wants a quick contactless payment system to ensure queues are kept to a minimum and he can get to work on time? Maybe he wants a more luxurious range of sandwich fillings to ensure that he chooses the Just Catering kiosk rather than pick up a cheese and ham sandwich from a supermarket? Creating personas helps you to create unique selling points and iron out potential kinks in your plan before you open for business.
Where are your target users likely to be?
If we take “Tom” as our example target user, we are going to need to make sure the kiosk is on a well-trod route on his way to work. If he wants a takeaway bacon sandwich for breakfast on his way to work, we need to make sure that he can find us on his route. To assess whether a location is viable, we are going to have to measure the amount of footfall.
There are lots of ways we can do that, but by far the most cost effective is to actually sit outside with a clipboard during key times and count the number of people walking past. For our purposes, let us say that the key times are going to be 7am to 9am for rush hour footfall and 11:30 to 2pm for lunch breaks. We would have to count the number of people coming past our proposed location.
However, logically, not every person would be a potential customer. So, for a conservative estimate, we will probably just have to count the number of people we see with competitors’ takeaway coffee cups or refillable mugs walking past. This should give us an idea of the potential custom for any given area.
Within reason, can you stress test the viability of the business idea?
At the moment, with social distancing and working from home the norm, you could argue that this will not give an accurate reading of the full potential of any one location. You would be right. In some ways, making this survey at this time will help us gauge the viability of the location under economically stressful conditions. If we are planning this new arm of the business as a means of supporting Just Catering through economically difficult times, such as a future outbreak of Covid-19 and localised Lockdown of our area, then measuring footfall before July 4th is essential. From July 4th, when pubs, restaurants and other outdoor social spaces open with a “1 metre plus” restriction, we should see an even greater increase in footfall if the area is viable. The area is viable now, how much more will it be when Lockdown restrictions are eased further.
The best takeaway sandwich shop near you
Ultimately, we want people like “Tom” to think of our store as the “best takeaway sandwich shop near me”. With the right product, location, market and economic mood, we can make this happen. Let’s see this pandemic as a wake up call to all of our brothers and sisters in the catering industry to think about ways to pivot their business; ultimately it will make for a more robust business and brand for the future.