When COVID-19 upended the foodservice industry in early 2020, restaurants were forced to get creative in order to survive. Many resulting innovations, which benefit both restaurants and customers, will likely remain part of the takeout and dine-in experiences. Other service businesses can certainly learn from the lessons foodservice businesses learned during the pandemic.
Invest in Digital Tools
COVID restrictions limited the number of employees and customers that could be in a restaurant at once. These restrictions and other safety measures were, and still are, ever-changing. Investing in digital tools allows foodservice businesses to quickly adapt and keep people safe, while still providing a great customer experience.
Online menus, accessed via a website, app, or third-party service (often using a QR code), allow for a contactless experience. They also help restaurants adjust their menus based on ingredient availability and add more visual and written information there isn’t space for on printed menus. Some platforms offer online ordering right from a digital menu as well. Restaurants are also increasingly using digital tools in-house, with internal operations such as scheduling, accounting, and communication positively impacted by automation and AI.
Pivot Your Offerings
Restaurants without any takeout or delivery offerings were effectively forced to pivot when in-person dining was limited by COVID restrictions. Some pivoted from fine dining to fast casual and reimagined meals better suited for takeout. Others grabbed a piece of the growing meal-kit delivery market or offered frozen dinners. Lastly, consumers’ acceptance of all things virtual in 2020 gave restaurants the opportunity to offer cooking and mixology classes via video.
While these changes were a departure from the restaurants’ past ventures, they were still within the businesses’ core competencies.
Reimagine the Supply Chain
COVID impacted supply chains across industries, including food. Consumers noticed it at the grocery store and restaurants felt the impact. Locally sourced ingredients became more important than ever as large processing facilities were hobbled by COVID-related restrictions as well as increased demand. Automated inventory management allows for a more detailed approach to ingredient procurement. Restaurants also addressed this challenge with an increased reliance on minimal menus.
While these innovations were especially necessary and impactful in the foodservice industry, they have implications in other industries as well. From healthcare to manufacturing, companies will need to meet shifting expectations and regulations with novel solutions.