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Foodservice industry urged to adapt overnight to survive Covid-19 crisis

New Zealand’s restaurant and fast food service operators have been urged to adapt their business practices overnight to survive the growing Covid-19 crisis.

National retail sales and leasing director for Bayleys Real Estate, Chris Beasleigh, says the huge societal habit-changes currently sweeping the country call for game-changing ways in which restaurants, cafes, and takeaway outlets conduct their business.

“On advice of the Government and health promotion agencies, over the coming weeks, Kiwis will be spending less time in the public domain. That means less visits to restaurants and cafes, and fewer visits to pick up the Friday night family fish and chips,” Mr Beasleigh said.

“This slow-down in on-premise dining clientele trade throws up a whole new dynamic for those foodservice establishments not currently using the likes of Uber Eats or their own home delivery service as part of their marketing activities.

“People will still want to retain some degree of normality to their lives – and while they may choose not to publicly eat out in the coming weeks, they will still want to enjoy their favourite restaurant or café food. It’s just that now, that meal will be consumed at home.

“Foodservice operators will have to adapt literally overnight to that new scenario. Adapt or face the very real possibility of going out of business.

“With fewer customers forecast to be dining in over the immediate future, there is the potential straight away to have appropriate front of house staff operating home delivery services ‘as of now’.

“Alternatively, restaurants and cafes could initiate a ‘click and collect’ model such as that already operated by the supermarket chains – where food is prepared in the restaurant kitchen then collected from the front desk with no face-to-face contact with restaurant personnel.”

Mr Beasleigh – who specialises in leasing foodservice and hospitality premises – said the trend was already growing in the USA – where fast-food giant McDonalds had announced it was closing its restaurant dome-in areas and instead directing customer traffic to the drive-through outlets. Similarly in New Zealand, doughnut retailer Krispy Kreme today shut its in-store dining rooms to the public but instead directed all customer traffic to counter-collection or drive-through options – thereby keeping staff employed and the businesses open.

At the same time, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio formally ordered the city’s 27,000 restaurants, bars, cafes to shut down – permitting only takeout and home delivery services to continue. Hours later, the states of Washington, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts and California followed suit.

Mr Beasleigh showcased boutique Auckland bakery Dough Boys as an “overnight adaptor” example of the home delivery service model. The Browns Bay-based bakery – which has traditionally supplied wholesale outlets and sold to the public through various weekend farmers markets - has posted on its facebook page that with those channels drying up, it is now offering home delivery bread packs direct to the consumer.

Dough Boys’ home delivery pack consists of loaves, panninis and burger buns. All product can be frozen. The company is also looking at putting together a classic Kiwi ‘savoury box comprising 10 pies and 10 sausage rolls.

“Dough Boys has in essence changed its sales focus in a matter of days to meet the radically-changed demands of not only its existing clientele, but also picking up customers who have found the supermarket shelfs stripped bare of the likes of toilet paper and bread,” Mr Beasleigh.

“Is at times like this when the good old Kiwi ‘number eight-wire’ mentality will really come into its own. Thinking of new ways of doing things.

Mr Beasleigh said that that in partnership with local eateries evolving their service offerings in the face of adversity, consumers – while taking the necessary healthcare precautions - should endeavour to continue supporting their local café or restaurant home delivery service where possible, even if it was only once a week, rather than hibernating behind closed doors.

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