With stores forced to shut down worldwide due to COVID-19, many food, beverage, and restaurant businesses feared they would have to close their shutters for good. But, thankfully, it’s not all bad news.
According to a Euromonitor report, the food and beverage industry will be a bright spot for business growth in 2020. While the growth may be marginal, it’s a reason for owners of food retail businesses to be positive and get creative. And, there’s even more good news: In a recent interview by food innovation lab Mattson, half of the companies believe they’ll emerge stronger following the epidemic.
However, your company’s success will depend on your actions. Here, we explain strategies that your food, beverage, or restaurant business can take to grow in 2020 and beyond.
Customers will still appreciate tried and tested products, and a familiar style of service. But, with social distancing in place for the foreseeable future, your company will need to look at fresh ways to serve your buyers and increase sales. This means you must innovate to overcome the challenges of social distancing.
Panera Bread and Subway are great examples of this. When customers stopped coming in to dine, the companies branched out to selling groceries, meeting an immediate need. Think how you can do this. Perhaps you could:
- Look for ways to limit complexity in your business to increase efficiency.
- Increase sales by responding to developing trends and tracking your data.
- Think about partnering with another business that compliments yours.
- Consider consumers’ foremost concerns during COVID-19, and how can you help address them.
PepsiCo’s CEO, Indra Nooyi, once said, “e-commerce is shaping up to be the next great revolution in the food and beverage industry.”
The food and beverage sectors have been slowly shifting toward e-commerce, but now a digital channel is more vital than ever.
According to Euromonitor, the businesses and brands that maximize the potential of their digital offerings are likely to perform the best. If you’re not already online, or if your e-commerce presence needs some work, there are several steps you can take towards designing a successful e-commerce site.
Once you’ve established your site, you can optimize your success by tracking your data. Use the data you have from your customers to identify behaviors, look at purchase histories, and then act on the trends you see developing.
Inspire with storytelling
Innova Insights predicted storytelling would be a crucial strategy for the food marketing and beverage sector in 2020. Storytelling allows customers to:
- Learn more about your brand and what inspired it.
- Understand your products and their benefits.
- Develop trust in your company.
In addition, storytelling helps customers feel connected, evoke emotions, and provoke conversations. There are many approaches to storytelling. However, the experts say you should:
- Create an original story.
- Address consumer concerns head-on.
- Be transparent.
- Use multiple mediums.
- Create connections via social media.
- Highlight sustainability.
- Make it simple.
- Live your values.
- Emphasize your differences.
- Use images.
The beauty of storytelling is that it’s available to every business, no matter its size. And, with social media accessible to everyone, finding a platform to draw customers in is easier than ever.
Many food and beverage trends were predicted for 2020. However, the sector also needs to think about how COVID-19 will change the way consumers shop.
Josh Howarth, writer and co-founder of Exploding Topics, says, “Coronavirus obviously massively impacted consumer eating habits, alongside food and beverage preferences. Yet, even as lockdowns come to an end and people return to pre-crisis life, a lot of these changes will actually stick more than expected. And, the popularity of these products will be way higher than before COVID. People have learned to enjoy these new products or behave in a different, often more convenient, way with regards to consumption.”
There’s plenty you can do to adapt to these changes:
- With social distancing, serving larger parties won’t be an option. Overcome this by developing methods that cater to smaller groups. You could also offer individual servings or meal kits.
- Consider providing takeout for customers hosting parties with family and friends.
- Suggest food and wine pairings to further boost profits.
- Now is also a good time to revamp your menu. Take some time to analyze what’s working and what isn’t. Which dishes are your most profitable? Make sure you understand your margins, costs of goods sold (COGS), and other data vital to your business.
- Consider offering food sampling to gain feedback on new recipes and meal options.
Howarth also predicted the following trends for 2020:
- OMAD (One Meal A Day): Many people had trouble resisting temptation while stuck at home, which led people to try OMAD. And, the OMAD community continues to grow even as lockdowns end, as the practice has moved closer to the mainstream.
- Hard kombucha: Drinking alcohol from home became the norm during the crisis. Alcohol consumption rose, along with worries about health and immunity. Hard kombucha has become a way for people to have a drink without feeling as guilty.
- ACV gummies: Immunity boosting foods, such as apple cider vinegar, exploded in popularity during the coronavirus. And, many folks still take their daily gummy even as lockdowns end.
- Canned wine: As outdoor events and venues are allowed to open again, people want a convenient way to enjoy a glass of Rosé.
- Pellet grill: During peak boredom hours of the lockdown, people realized that these cooking devices that use pellets can add variety to their home cooking routine and meals.
- Cotija: A hard salty cheese from Mexico that became popular during the crisis, due to its exotic nature. It has kept some post-lockdown popularity since people have come to enjoy it.
- Japanese cheesecake: Another exotic food, but this one is perfect to show off on Instagram. Again, it looks to have sustained search popularity post-lockdown.
While you should track wider trends, remember that your own data will show you emerging patterns and potential for cost savings and increased revenues. When you track your data, you can be sure you’re making the right decisions at the right time.
Don’t forget consumer values
Consumer values are always essential to your business, but they are now more vital than ever. More recently, consumers have come to appreciate:
- Grab-and-go meals (for convenience)
- Plant-based foods
- Health-conscious alternatives (such as low sugar or gluten free)
- Eco-friendly products
In addition, Euromonitor’s report says mental and physical health, as well as good hygiene practices, will be among shoppers’ top concerns. Find ways that your food, beverage, or restaurant business can address these to add further customer value.
How to increase your restaurant sales, and keep your food and beverage business growing
So far, 2020 has brought significant change for the food, beverage, and restaurant sectors. Learning to engage your customers with storytelling, paying attention to trends, and understanding customers’ priorities can enable your business to thrive after COVID-19 and into the future.
However, your business must understand the concerns of consumers and employees alike. Your business can also add further value by honing in on the health, hygiene, and well-being of consumers.