E&S Extra

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


Lessons Learned

Prognosticating during a pandemic can be like spitting into the wind in that it’s simultaneously messy and unpredictable.

Joe Carbonara editor hsSuch is the case with so many predictions made at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is about to hit its second anniversary — a milestone moment nobody is celebrating.

Take, for example, delivery. Back in the spring of 2020 when all of the, umm, “fun” started, many predicted that delivery would be a stopgap that helped keep operators going for a while. Today, it’s become clear that delivery will remain a prominent feature on the foodservice industry landscape. I mean, how can you beat the convenience of getting restaurant-quality food delivered to your home or office?

But as operators have learned, the key to successfully navigating delivery is negotiating the twists and turns of that last mile the food travels to the customer’s front door. The packaging must not only promote product safety, but it must also maintain food quality. Indeed, successfully navigating that last mile requires critical operational analysis and thoughtful menu development. It also includes operational flexibility that’s backed by a well-thought-out design and multifunctional equipment package. Without a doubt, successfully managing the last mile logistics of food delivery makes or breaks the brand experience in today’s foodservice industry.

Another common COVID-19 conversation often focused on the notion that self-serve options were dead. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. No doubt, in some jurisdictions, self-service formats like hot bars (page 64) remain in timeout, but this is far from a universal approach. In fact, some foodservice designers report customers requesting they include self-service options in new construction projects that won’t be fully operational for a couple of years.

One thing that won’t change is the need for proper placement to ensure not only a safe and steady flow of guests through a foodservice space but also to make sure the operator can make effective and efficient use of its labor, which will likely remain in short supply for quite some time. No doubt, these self-service features may not be for every operation, but they still make plenty of sense in the right situation.

Finally, while the industry overall continues to deal with myriad challenges on a daily basis, it has not stopped a handful of operators from thriving, instead of simply just surviving. No two concepts ever use the exact same recipe for success. In some cases, it’s a matter of leveraging one’s systems and tried-and-true menu. In other instances, it’s a matter of staying disciplined when it comes to what dayparts to serve. And for some, it comes down to continuing to provide an authentic experience for a growing, yet devoted, customer base.

Regardless of their approach, by staying true to their strengths and having an innate ability as to when and how to be flexible, some operators continue to find ways to ride the waves of turbulence to propel their businesses ever forward. And that’s a lesson that applies to all of us, regardless of our position in the industry.