Flexible Food Distribution and Restaurant Business Models
Covid-19 has left restaurants and food distribution companies scrambling to stay afloat. Many are straying away from their traditional business models to keep their companies from going under. The food distribution industry is already expecting to take a $110 billion loss for a year which is a third of their 2019 revenue. The industry lost somewhere between 60% – 90% of their sales in April.
Changing Rules and Regulations
Guidelines for restaurants and food distribution companies looking to operate in the midst of the pandemic vary by state, but they all agree that smaller crowds limit the chance of exposure. Restaurants are advised to limit the use of shared items like condiment bottles, salt shakers, menus and avoid pre-setting tables with silverware.
Regardless of steps being taken to make dining out safer, many people still aren’t comfortable with the idea of going out again. A survey by the Democracy Fund and UCLA Nationscape Project found that only 50% of respondents feel comfortable going out to eat. Restaurants are getting creative in an attempt to change this statistic by setting up patios for outdoor eating, launching new menus, offering cocktails to-go and creating QR codes to allow guests to view their menu online.
Changes to the traditional food distribution and restaurant business models demand a change from their supply chains in return. Many restaurants and food distribution centers had to shut down for a period of time when Covid-19 began to spread. Pausing a company’s supply chain altogether is expensive and leaves products at a standstill. Restarting a supply chain, especially when perishable goods are involved, can be just as costly. Food distribution companies and restaurants were left to find a way to continue to operate under these new circumstances. Here are a few examples of how companies are making it work:
How Traditional Business Models are Responding
Restaurants Become Grocery Providers and Distributors
The Cork and Barrel Wine Bar in Zionsville, Indiana is one of the many businesses that temporarily shut down as a result of Covid-19. Rather than wait until they were allowed to resume business as usual, owner Sarah Hine transformed the bar into a delivery business and mini grocery store.
The restaurant partnered up with Piazza Produce, a wholesaler in Indianapolis that was also looking for a way to keep their operations moving in the midst of Covid-19. Together, the companies produced consumer-sized quantities of products that people needed but were struggling to locate at the grocery store. They began doing 30-40 deliveries a day and while it didn’t replace the business lost, it helped the Cork and Barrel Wine Bar and Piazza Produce keep their doors open.
Both businesses were fearful of not being able to re-open should they have to close their doors. While shifting to a delivery model changed the stock and supplies they needed for operations, it prevented them from having to press pause on their supply chains altogether.
Deli Counters Utilize Grab-and-Go Method
Many deli counters initially responded to the pandemic by shutting down because they were unsure of how to operate. However, deli meats are convenient and easy to snack on – two qualities that are especially important to consumers during the pandemic. To meet rising consumer demand, deli counters are starting to pre-package popular products. While Covid-19 has made it uncomfortable for customers to stand in lines or crowds, they are more than happy to adapt to a grab-and-go method for their favorite deli meats.
While retail food and beverage companies have always needed to remain nimble to respond to changing customer demand, the pandemic has forced many to rethink their supply chains in order to stay open. Having a flexible supply chain that is able to adapt to a changing environment ensures that companies that need to rethink their business models can do so and continue to thrive even after economic hardships like the Coronavirus pandemic.