As states around the country begin to ease restrictions, residents start to emerge into public places, and restaurants open, albeit to new rules, the future of the food and beverage industry is coming into focus. While there a lot of unknowns, right now, one thing is certain: the food and beverage world is going to come out of this a changed industry.
Until now, restaurants have battened down their hatches and weathered the storm with combinations of furloughing, take-out programs, and as much delivery as they can support. Many states temporarily lifted bans on alcohol being served in to-go formats, giving bars a much-needed revenue stream. All in all, the ship continued sailing -- slowly, and without much direction, but she’s still sailing. The question on everyone’s mind though is a quiet chorus of “What’s next?”
As restaurants begin to open, in most cases to 25% capacity or outdoor seating with social distance rules in effect, the biggest question is how consumers will change their behaviors post-coronavirus lockdown. Consumers will not only need more reason to go out, but will expect more safety from their local favorites as well. The love that the food & beverage community can expect from the customer is going to entirely conditional -- “Is the restaurant providing something that I can’t make myself? Is the restaurant incorporating sanitary practices? Am I being safe in visiting my favorite bar?”
This all falls under one big conversation that is sure to come on the exit side of COVID-19. And that conversation is the up-and-coming phrase of “Ambient Wellness”. This is a topic expected to be on the tip of the industry’s collective tongue when the nation comes out of the outbreak. Ambient wellness is defined as the feeling of safety within one’s surroundings, and that’s going to be crucial for customers as they dip their toes into going out again. Customers are going to expect more from the food safety of their favorite restaurants. Moreover, food safety and heightened sanitation standards will be the defining, make-or-break factors in a customer’s decision to visit an establishment. Customers will need to see visible, clear signs of enhanced safety protocols. This could mean sealed silverware, single-use menus, or even masked waiters.
Additionally, with health and safety top of mind, rules put in place for restaurants, and the explosion of virtual happy hours during coronavirus restrictions, consumers are now creating elevated drinking and dining experiences from their home while taking advantage of new take-out programs from restaurants. As a result, consumers are expanding their stock thanks to modern barware and curated cocktail kits that simplify ‘mixology’ – bridging the gap between the industry and consumers. Brands like Crew Bottle Co., Cocktail Courier, and Drizly are catering to changing consumer demands of both direct to consumer and industry sectors.
For Crew Bottle Company, which makes innovative bar supplies that empowers beverage programs to operate more safely, efficiently, and sustainably, this means having a flexible business strategy and efficient e-commerce fulfillment to meet industry and in-home consumer needs. Already a known brand to restaurants and bars, Crew’s reputation for safety and sustainable products is rising in the direct to consumer sector as well.
In addition to increasing sanitation standards across the board, Crew products help the industry sector streamline their sanitary protocols and standard operating procedures – both top concerns of business owners and consumers. Crew products are dishwasher-safe – ensuring a proper, more thorough cleaning. For public establishments such as restaurants, hotels, etc., Crew products help them remain safe and hygienic – increasing how consumers view their ambient wellness through cleanliness in addition to their improved standards. This makes Crew’s products attractive for in-home consumers as well. And, just as the food and beverage industry has had to showcase flexibility, suppliers like Crew have set the pace.
One of the biggest keys to having the flexibility to operate in the food and beverage industry in this new normal, is partnering with companies and leveraging their expertise and people so businesses can focus on what they do best. For Crew, that meant partnering with Ryder for an e-commerce fulfillment solution helping the company expand its footprint to fulfill orders and reach customers around the country, while providing capacity needed for inventory. Through this partnership, Crew is able to focus on its products and meeting customer demands, while Ryder ensures uninterrupted efficient and accurate order fulfillment.
As the food and beverage industry ramps up, there will be no “right” way to do things. And, everyone in the industry will have to leverage the strengths of each other to meet new customer behaviors and demands. This means being nimble to change strategies whether it is going from dine-in to take-out or adding e-commerce capabilities to reach consumers directly. As a result of this flexibility, and new partnerships, one thing about the future of the industry is certain: When the industry turns the corner on the coronavirus, food and beverage will surely thrive like never before.