Restaurants and cafes across the country have found themselves plunged back into another lockdown, with limited light at the end of the tunnel.
Here at Cater Oils, we have already seen lots of catering and hospitality businesses close their doors, many for good, and those remaining have had to adapt to survive.
The fast food takeaway market is faring much better, with many drive-through restaurants already well-established to weather the Covid storm. But for those who made a living from sit-down meals; the ambience of a sophisticated restaurant or the atmosphere of a friendly cafe; they are now finding themselves in a very serious sink or swim situation.
Consumers are changing, accepting and thriving with new online shopping methods; click and collect and placing orders online, but no matter how much their shopping methods change, their tastes and wants remain the same.
Changing Consumer Choices
Previously, customers may have chosen a restaurant based on their decor, atmosphere, menu or location, but now there’s an added element of competition – tech! Customers want to be able to order food quickly and conveniently, with efficient delivery and attractive packaging (possibly not a polystyrene tray!).
Online platforms need to be innovative, intuitive and convenient – if not, your potential customer will simply log off and find a competitor who’s ordering platform is easy to use. Many smaller businesses are simply taking orders via social media, capitalising on the free marketing of a customer sharing snaps of their food with their friends and family.
New Ways to Enjoy Favourite Meals
For a long time, food delivery was about last minute ordering of a chinese meal when no one could be bothered to cook, or the quick delivery of a huge pizza when friends popped round unannounced. But now, customers are planning ahead. They may want to order food for delivery on a certain night at a specific time, and much like booking tables, you will need to accommodate those ordering in advance and the delivery service must be up to scratch!
Food Delivery is Here to Stay
Whilst the unexpected evolution of food delivery almost happened over night, with those tech-savvy businesses owners rising to the challenge quickly, there are many that are still coming to terms with not being able to serve their customers in the traditional way.
One of the biggest issues to overcome is peak delivery times. Whilst previously customers could be staggered, to ensure everyone could be fed in an appropriate amount of time, delivering numerous meals to customers spread out far and wide at the exact same time is unmanageable without significant investment in delivery vehicles and staff, which could make the venture financially unviable.
As more and more caterers get aboard with the expansion of the food delivery service, there will be more and more competition, so finding new and innovative ways to serve your customers will be key. A few examples of how restaurants are adapting their offerings to suit the change in demand and consumer behaviour include:
Build your Own Meal Boxes
Restaurants that are renowned for high-end food, quality ingredients and exceptional service could struggle to meet the demands of many menu choices and still deliver the same quality and service. They also know that their food is best served fresh from the oven, and perhaps won’t travel all too well.
A solution here is to offer Build you Own Meal boxes. Chefs do the hard work; they source the finest ingredients, do the specialist prep and put together a recipe card for customers to recreate their fancy meals in the comfort of their own home. A bit like a high-end Gusto box.
This way the customer not only gets the pleasure of their luxury meal, and the satisfaction of supporting their favourite restaurant, but also the experience of learning to cook it themselves. The restaurant can limit the choices available so they can still provide the quality of service expected, and take orders and payment ahead of time to ensure no expensive meals are wasted, or left uncollected and unpaid.
Restaurant-Quality Ready Meals
Brits are well-used to the infamous ready meal; they don’t expect the food to be the best, but the low cost and convenience makes them the perfect quick meal. However, for those that still want food that has been lovingly prepared and cooked by an expert chef, a standard ready meal won’t cut the biscuit. For example, if a customer is looking for an authentic Indian meal, they don’t want a frozen tikka masala from Tesco.
However, some restaurants are creating their signature dishes, with all the trimmings you would expect in a restaurant, and freezing or chilling them for easy delivery. That way the customer can order their favourite meal to be delivered to their door, ready to simply heat up once the kids are in bed.
This method is proving lucrative for local restaurants as they can still cater to a larger number of customers (sometimes more than could fit into their restaurant in any one might!), without the time limits imposed by traditional fast food delivery services or seated service times.
It can be difficult to know how to make a lockdown birthday, or any occasion that would normally be celebrated with friends and family, special. Customers are looking for something that will still feel like a celebration, but in their own homes.
Cafes have responded to this by offering hampers or platters of their quality food, ready to unpack and enjoy at home. Perhaps it’s finger sandwiches, homemade treats and a special cake for a child’s birthday (accompanied by table decorations or balloons); or perhaps it’s social hampers (cheese and wine or pub snacks, pork scratching and beers), made for one person, delivered to a few friends to enjoy together over Zoom in place of their regular night out in a local pub.
As more and more people celebrate milestones at home, birthdays, new jobs, and simple get-togethers, cafes and pubs can take full advantage by providing the ‘something special’ their customers are missing.
Adapt to Survive
So the message to many businesses, particularly those in the catering and hospitality sector, is adapt to survive. Remember that although consumer habits and demands are changing, customers’ desires are staying largely the same.
Those that wanted a big, homemade breakfast without the washing up, or a fancy Michelin starred meal to share with their loved ones, still crave those luxuries. So for many in the industry, it’s time to turn your business models upside down to deliver the food and the service your loyal customers still want, but in a different way.
The team here at Cater Oils have written this article with ideas to help our valued customers in the catering industry adapt and stay in business.
As a supplier, providing fresh cooking oil deliveries and used cooking oil collections, we want to reassure our customers that we are here to help. We have undertaken our own risk assessments and now operate in a Covid-secure manner.
We have trained our staff to ensure they adhere to social distancing guidelines, and will be happy to discuss how we can help with your new ways of working. We’re always willing to support you in creating a Covid secure environment, and change the way we deliver or collect from you to suit your new business model. Simply contact us today to find out more!