As much as we would like to go into denial mode and speak about the industry in terms of trends and outlook, and as if all is fine, we find ourselves ethically compelled to address the one imminent threat that promises to reshape the sector from the bottom up, and force it to rethink all its moves, forecasts and business plans.
It inevitably is about reinventing the wheel. While early on, digital and motorized delivery channels were about expanding the reach and maximizing profit, they have become the outlets’ sole source of decent income during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The food and beverage sector is one of the most profitable in the region. A 2017 report estimated that the industry in the GCC will reach a value of 34 Billion US dollars. But that was 2017. The Coronavirus outbreak had other plans. The silver lining is that, while innovation would have been initiated anyways, the pandemic acted as a catalyst. Just a few months ago, trends were more location-based. Immersive experiences, cross-continental cuisines and superfoods were setting the pace. “Eatertainment”, multi-sensory dining and food trucks were inching in as the new hypes. With the emergence of digital influence, customers became more aware of mobile ordering, delivery chefs, and foodie bloggers. The industry was thriving to create an equilibrium between going-out and staying-in and manage footfall on one end while satisfying couch potatoes on the other.
Again, that was pre-COVID-19. As of now, most of what was hypothesized suddenly turned into reality. Optimistically, these are great times where putting ideas to test might work better than anticipated. “Sanitization” and “contactless” are now buzzwords and a part of our daily life.
Here’s the question: How will the F&B sector build enough resilience to dodge the most lethal bullet it faced since the 2008 economic meltdown?