PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y.—Despite the continued uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the foodservice industry is on the path toward recovery, say officials at The NPD Group, but the road back is likely to be longer than previously expected.
According to Nation’s Restaurant News, NPD’s recently released “Future of Foodservice Snapshot: Restaurant Revival” report predicts restaurant traffic will be down by 10% by the end of 2020, and declines will continue into next year.
David Portalatin, national food and beverage analyst, The NPD Group, believes it will be tough going for the next six to 12 months. “But things will get better,” said Portalatin. He shared five recommendations that foodservice operators should consider when planning for a recovery.
Lean Into “At Home”
As of the week ended Sept. 20, just 46% of people nationwide were working outside the home compared with before the pandemic. That fact is a reminder that not all consumers are having the same experience. With working and schooling taking place largely at home, foodservice operators must be aware of and provide for consumers’ very different needs. “We have to lean into where consumers are, find ways to be relevant inside the home,” said Portalatin.
Pump Up Variety
During the pandemic, many foodservice operators have limited or streamlined menus out of practicality. But going forward, they’ll need to mix things up. “You’re going to see a consumer who is seeking out variety,” said Portalatin. “[Operators have] got to keep the innovation pipeline fresh. Remember to keep it new and exciting.”
Transcend the Food
Even in these unusual times, consumers crave new cuisines, flavors and items that only foodservice professionals can provide, whether its on-premises or off. “Operators need to be prepared to provide that differentiated experience in whatever pandemic measures are in place,” said Portalatin. “Consumers have missed it.”
Drive Digital Visits
Today about 76% of all delivery orders are placed digitally, and that will continue to grow. Digital offers contactless procedures and frictionless ordering, while providing a platform to meet consumers’ growing need for food variety, exploration, healthy options and treating themselves. “[Use digital to] raise awareness of the things you have for consumers,” said Portalatin. “We can be better at suggestive selling, new menu innovation.”
Go to Consumers
There will still be consumers who aren’t ready or able to dine on-premises for some time. That means operators must find a way to take their brand to them. Portalatin suggests operators look for opportunities to offer menu items that complete an at-home meal or can be blended with foods prepared at home or consider offering moveable foodservice. “We’re seeing pop-up restaurants, food trucks,” said Portalatin. “It’s difficult to measure, but it’s out there.”
To see some new foodservice-focused products that can help you bounce back, don’t miss this brief video—under 20 minutes—that features foodservice category trends and new product introductions of some of the latest foodservice items to hit c-store shelves.
NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.