It could seem odd in a hospitality article to be commenting on how banks, law firms and other city organisations are dealing with the pandemic, but their actions are having a massive impact on a number of sectors of the hospitality industry.
This virus doesn’t look like it’s going away for the foreseeable future, so what’s the point in waiting until September, January or even later to open up the workplace? Surely, we all need to learn to live with the virus, taking what precautions we can to stay safe?
Thanks to the need for physical distancing, even once offices are up and running again, whilst the virus is with us, it sounds like it’s going to be hard for them to house much more than 50% of those who were previously there.
What that means is that our cities will have 50% less people working in them…this hits the high street and of course those providing catering in these buildings. It’s not just staff canteens, hospitality is also being hit, though there’s a good argument that says it’s better to stay in your building for a working lunch than to go out, so maybe there’s some hope there.
So that’s not great, though here’s a thought… what are the other 50% doing for lunch? Yes, lots are making a sandwich at home, but the reality of home working is hitting now, and many are missing the live social interaction of the office and the high street. If we’re right that this is a long-term situation, we need to think of long-term solutions and opportunities.
I wonder if there’s a market for inexpensive local office/desk rental for those struggling with the practicalities of working from home? This could help repopulate town centres with people who would otherwise commute to cities, rejuvenating demand in dying high streets.
What we’ve actually got is a forced shift to behaviours that were already happening. How can our industry respond and thrive in this environment?
- Home delivery has already grown fast, together with dark kitchens.
- Platforms for delivered-in meals like Spoonfed and Feedr could be coming of age. Deliveroo and Just Eat are everywhere already and did really well during lockdown.
- Agile, responsive local catering outlets do well if they are good at publicity and getting their message out there. People have been missing their barista-made coffees! These could link in with an increase in local work hubs.
- Meal kits in various stages of preparation are growing in popularity, ranging from swanky kits from high end restaurants to ingredient deliveries for simple, home-cooked meals.
- Lockdown generated a massive move to help those in society needing support through food. Hopefully, these initiatives will thrive and will be able to make use of catering spaces that may be over-sized for future demand.
So, there’s no question we are in challenging times with change having been forced on us. We need the “new normal” to be established as soon as possible so that our industry can do what it always does – innovate and adapt to meet a new demand and make use of the amazing talent we employ.
Also by Chris Stern