Article contributed by Devin Partida
Life during COVID-19 has changed dramatically. One result of the pandemic is the recent boom in remote work. Many businesses had to close their doors — some temporarily, others permanently.
As more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine and states lift their social distancing and mask requirements, offices are reopening. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will return to the workplace. It’s expected that 3.9 million Americans will continue to work from home for at least half the week for the remainder of the pandemic.
This increase in work-from-home employees raises some questions. Are people still grocery shopping? Are they dining out? How will this data impact the food industry?
Here is more information about the state of the food service industry, how it’s changed due to the pandemic and what to expect shortly.
State of the Food Service Industry
It’s interesting to see how the rise in remote work will directly impact various restaurants. The industry has undergone significant changes, and some of them may outlast the pandemic.
For example, Starbucks and Dunkin’ are known for their coffee, which is a morning ritual for some. Without morning commuters stopping in for their java fix, does this mean sales have gone down?
The short answer is yes. McDonald’s reported that breakfast sales suffered in more recent weeks. Dunkin’s sales were down 15% during the week that ended May 23, 2021. Starbucks also announced that its sales were down 35% during the last week of May.
External factors may contribute to these plummeting sales, and the growth of online delivery apps is only making matters worse for traditional chain restaurants.
The Rise in Online Ordering, Delivery and Takeout
With more people spending their days and disposable income at home, it’s no wonder online ordering for delivery or takeout has become more popular.
The rise in food delivery app usage is driven by people wanting to save money and the factor of convenience. For some remote workers, it’s easier to put in a quick delivery order than to bother making lunch in the kitchen.
Restaurants located in densely populated urban areas feel the effects of businesses transitioning to a work-from-home business model. Initially, placing a restaurant in the middle of a busy city can potentially draw in more customers. However, during the pandemic, it’s evident that city dwellers still prefer ordering takeout or delivery.
Additionally, studies have shown that cities have become less congested due to the pandemic, which naturally means restaurants are also less crowded. Establishments that fail to offer takeout or delivery services for their customers will be at a disadvantage compared to competitors that meet new expectations.
It’s worth noting that restaurants looking to offer takeout or begin delivering meals will face challenges along the way. For example, working with third-party apps is a costly undertaking and comes with logistical issues.
Either way, restaurants may need to make a hard pivot and find new, innovative ways to stay competitive in a saturated market. Because the food delivery space is dominated by major players like DoorDash, Grubhub and UberEats, smaller businesses may need to jump on the trend and begin working with these aggregators.
Need for Socialization and Family Meal Time
A silver lining remains in this situation for businesses operating within the food service industry. Because so many people felt isolated and experienced loneliness during the pandemic, there’s a strong desire to socialize at restaurants and bars during downtime.
Remote employees looking to meet up with friends or family for social gatherings will continue to do so. Restaurants should take note of this change and do their best to cater to suburban areas filled with remote workers trying to take a break from their home workspace.
Another noticeable impact remote workers are having on the food industry is the rediscovery of family mealtimes. Some restaurants, like Bojangles, have offered new options on their menu, such as the Big Bo Box, to accommodate families who need large meals but don’t necessarily want to shell out more cash.
The impact of remote work has changed restaurants’ approach to delivering high-quality experiences for their customers. Like many of the effects of the pandemic, these changes may become more than just a trend mainly due to the number of people working remotely. As the pandemic continues to impact daily life, it’s interesting to note all the changes appearing in the food service industry.
The Future of Food Service and Remote Workers
It’s become evident that many people can do their jobs with ease while working at home, using tools and online resources to get their work done. This also means lunch breaks are becoming more of a foundational part of their day. It’s a constant battle between ordering delivery or scrounging up a sandwich in the kitchen.
Remote workers will continue to impact restaurants across the country based on current trends in the food service industry. Eateries will need to be flexible and adapt to change if they want to stay afloat.
Devin Partida is a restaurant and business technologies writer. Her work has been featured on Yahoo! Finance, Entrepreneur, AOL and Business2Community. She is also an editor at ReHack.com.