As time passes and the government keep their plans for lock-down reversal under wraps, a lot of businesses are starting to think about how the economic landscape will be changed by Covid-19. There is no doubt that until we have an effective vaccine, Covid-19 is here to stay and has the potential to come back in waves as the economy restarts. Even the most positive forecasters say that once a vaccine is created, tested and approved, it will be months before the whole population gets access to a shot themselves.
So, what are we going to do in the medium term?
Thankfully, our company is still taking bookings for future weddings and events; people are expecting 2021 to be lock-down free, so are making plans for private life to continue. But a large proportion of our work is based on corporate business such as conferences, work-parties and workshops. It also seems likely, based on some reports in the media, that companies are going to be encouraged to work from home wherever possible for the foreseeable future. How will this impact the catering industry?
Covid-19 will change our work life
Projecting into the future is never a sure thing, but as a more practically minded, conservative sort of person, I can foresee that for the medium term, the way business happens is going to change. I think that air travel will be cut significantly as businesses rely on Zoom and other video conferencing programmes to speak to each other. It could be that more educational courses will happen in the form of online webinars, not face-to-face meetings. I predict that businesses will be asked by the government to put social distancing measures in place if they want to reopen; this means conference rooms will be defunct and employees with have staggered work times to minimise contact time.
All of this will work to reduce the need to eat together: the foundation of the catering industry and our business.
Covid-19 will change our industry
So, what can we do? I think a key thing for catering companies to think about will be diversification of their revenue streams. What follows is a brainstorm, a list of ideas that I threw together a few weeks ago in an effort to think through the medium-term plan for our business. I am not saying that every idea is viable for every company. Plus, each idea would require work to put into motion. But in this time when we, as a nation, and an industry, need to pull together, the sharing of information can be a way we support one another. Maybe there is the start of an idea for your business in the list below?
A large part of the population will be asked to stay inside for a long time. Hampers of food that they can buy online from your website and have delivered to their door might be a good way of bringing in regular income.
This is a similar idea to hampers. People could order from a restricted menu through your website and have the meals delivered to their door. This would particularly suit people with existing medical conditions, those with disabilities, or the elderly. You could have a telephone ordering service for those who are not computer literate. Maybe you could advertise in local papers?
Providing Meals for the NHS
There are lots of charities and companies that have been set up to deliver hot food to hospitals for staff. A simple internet search of your local area will help you locate your nearest. You could become part of this supply chain.
Food Stalls at Markets
Open air markets and social spaces may be amongst the first to open. If you are the kind of catering company that produces its own cakes, sweet treats or pastries, hiring a stall at local farmers markets might be a nice way to supplement your income with not much need for investment in new machines.
Pop up Stalls/Vans
Medium term, people will still need to find food for their lunch while they are work. It could be that many corporations may have to close down canteen areas whilst social distancing restrictions are in place. Investing in a van that allows you to drive around and serve sandwiches, jacket potatoes or other lunch food stuffs may be an option if you are based near a financial district or business park.
Taking this idea one step further, and if you are willing to get up really early, you could provide hot breakfast rolls for early commuters as they travel in to work.
Sell to Retail
If you have a signature dish, why not create a series of products that you can sell to local retail? For example, you could create an instruction booklet and package it with the ingredients so that customers can make the dishes for themselves at home. The ideal place to sell these items would be local farm shops or luxury delicatessens, where the customer base expects products to be exclusive, luxurious and creative.
Covid-19 will change us
I want to end on a really positive note. I know how devastating we have all found the last few weeks and I want to encourage you. For some, business is going to be a hard slog for the next 18 months, no doubt about it. However, all of us need to think of ways to plan for potential future economic disruption. Covid-19 won’t be the last virus that damages our country during our lifetimes.
But, if we are adaptive, flexible and creative as business leaders, we can ensure that Covid-19 won’t beat us. It might be that if you do implement a new revenue stream, your business morphs and you pursue a different path for your company. This virus may be the beginning of a new exciting chapter for your business.
It is our attitude that will keep our businesses functioning, even if they can’t thrive at the moment. Don’t let Covid-19 beat you! Adapt, change and grow.