E&S Extra

Editorial Director Joe Carbonara provides insights and commentary on the state of the foodservice equipment and supplies marketplace.

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Another week and more of the same for the restaurant industry. As confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise throughout the country, sales at restaurant chains remain generally flat as operators everywhere brace themselves for what might come next.

If there’s any one heartwarming aspect to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the way operators, consultants and other members of the industry continue to come together in support of one another.

When David Bowie wrote those lyrics in his hit song “Changes” it’s highly doubtful he did so with the foodservice industry in mind. But that’s where the industry finds itself roughly five months into the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s time to face the strange.

Business leaders typically navigate widespread disasters in three phases. First comes crisis mode followed by a period of stability before eventually moving forward while adjusting to the new realities of the day. Such is the case for the foodservice industry as it comes to grips with what its new reality may look like in a post-pandemic world.

The restaurant industry’s decline due to COVID-19 may have traveled a swift and direct path, but the road to recovery remains a long and winding one that will undoubtedly be riddled with potholes and other unwanted surprises.

With roughly 97% of restaurants facing restrictions of some sort to help stop the spread of coronavirus, operators have shifted their focus to off-premises sales to feed hungry customers and keep their businesses viable. Now foodservice equipment manufacturers are following suit, shifting parts of their operations to support their local communities.

When campus life came to an abrupt halt in March, college foodservice providers had to scramble to shut down their operations just as commercial restaurants did.

The foodservice industry is home to countless people who have mastered their individual trades. And then there’s Tobin Ellis. Anyone who has ever spent five minutes with Ellis, founder of hospitality design firm BarMagic, can not only speak to his passion and dedication but will also tell you how much it rubs off on you. So, it should come as no surprise that Ellis can’t sit idly by and watch COVID-19 inflict so much pain among the many professionals that comprise the foodservice industry.

With COVID-19 cases surging across many parts of the country, could one restaurant segment have an operating advantage over another for a while? Possibly.

The historic $2 trillion bipartisan economic stimulus bill was seen by many as a measure to provide relief to both consumers and businesses.

While much has been made about the way mandated closures to thwart the spread of COVID-19 have decimated restaurants and other foodservice operators, the fallout from this pandemic continues to impact individual members of the supply chain in different ways. Take, for example, Brad Pierce, president of Restaurant Equipment World, an Orlando, Fla.-based foodservice equipment and supplies dealer. Pierce’s multifaceted business and role as an AEROBridge Disaster Response volunteer give him a unique perspective on the pandemic’s impact on foodservice and beyond.

For the past few years, off-premises consumption has played a prominent role in the restaurant industry’s ability to continue to post positive, real growth. And with a variety of states and other municipalities banning consumers from dining on-premises it seems that carryout, delivery and even curbside pickup should be poised for growth as the COVID-19 crises plays out.

In March, when states and local governments began handing down stay-at-home edicts to curb the spread of the coronavirus and subsequently closed restaurant dining rooms, a very common line of thought was things would get back to normal sooner than later. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 5.5 million restaurant workers had lost their jobs through mid-May. And as I write this, many dining rooms across the country remain dark as some states cautiously start to develop plans to reopen their economies.

Lately I’ve been watching some movies from the ’80s with my daughters. And luckily for us, the hit “Ghostbusters” has been almost omnipresent on cable. (No, I have not yet cut the cord.) This family-friendly movie is rife with one-liners that I can now toss around with the hope that my children might actually find me funny. (Not holding my breath on that one.)

One presumed outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is the demise of self-service options like buffets and salad bars. Through thoughtful hard work and collaboration, though, one restaurant chain is doing what it can to ensure its self-serve options continue to thrive once guests return for on-premises dining.

If there’s one thing the foodservice industry loves more than a good cocktail party, it’s a list of trends. Every publication, including FE&S, dedicates space to dissecting current trends and their impact on the foodservice industry. This month, for example, FE&S’ Trend department on page 16 explores the ever-evolving nature of kids’ menus.

As the conversation gradually shifts toward reentry and what that could potentially look like, the foodservice industry may have gotten a glimpse of what’s to come last week when Georgia allowed restaurants to open their dining rooms.

It’s December, so that means many foodservice professionals are trying to wrap up the year while they simultaneously take a look ahead to see what 2020 will bring. Well, our friends at the National Restaurant Association went one better. Actually, the association went 10 better, and by that I mean it took a look at what the restaurant industry might look like by 2030.

For the second consecutive week the restaurant industry has some positive news on which to chew.

Consumers’ cravings for the convenience of off-premise dining show no signs of being satiated. If you’re looking for proof, here’s exhibit A: Off-premise consumption accounts for roughly 60 percent of all restaurant occasions, according to data from the National Restaurant Association.

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