We can all agree that we are experiencing a massive shift in the industry as a result of COVID-19. The phrase “business as usual” is currently devoid of meaning as well-established workflows and timeless operational methods have been completely turned on their heads. A true Alice in Wonderland experience where up is down and down is sideways as everything we’ve come to understand in industry careers we’ve studied for, spent years in and built on are being challenged in every way possible. So how do we respond? We pivot. We take unconsidered methods and make them primary revenue streams, we risk, we work hard, and we hang in there. In the latest turn of events amidst this health crisis, restaurants have begun to flip the switch on a term that once meant one thing, and now means another.
This past week, restaurants have begun to double as grocery stores in order to drum up some revenue while providing grocery staples to frustrated consumers who have grown tired of visiting their local supermarket only to face empty shelves. Up until about a week ago, if you googled the term “grocerants” you’d find a ton of information on how grocery stores were beginning to offer a restaurant experience to their customers in an attempt to become a one-stop-shop for all things food and beverage related. Now that restaurant dining areas have been closed due to the Coronavirus epidemic and enforced social distancing, grocerants in the traditional sense are no longer available and the shoe has been placed on the other foot. Restaurants have now flipped the model, and even hijacked the phrase!
In the last several weeks, we’ve all watched (and many of you readers have personally experienced) the evolution of the restaurant industry pivot. As the social distancing order was put into effect, the evolution began with dining rooms closing, which forced restaurants that were unaccustomed to delivery to quickly sync up to the most-available delivery app, pop up a menu online, and load to-go containers as quickly as they could. Many then moved to family-style meals that could be heated up at a later time instead of immediately consumed upon receiving. Then last week, several larger restaurant chains provided the opportunity for consumers to pick up staple food items along with their freshly-prepared meals. Distributors now have a gateway to the consumer through well-established restaurant relationships. Instead of supplying the needs of a weekly menu, orders expanded to serve a greater purpose. This week, they pivot once again.
The new version of the grocerant has made its next move in supplying fresh staples to their customers. In addition to providing grab-n-go staples like milk, bread, and eggs, grocerants have now begun to package up grocery staples in easy to assemble meal kits. Taziki’s, a Mediterranean restaurant chain with locations in Illinois and Indiana, has begun to provide “veggie bags” with accompanying salad dressing and a la carte fresh proteins, that when assembled, can quickly become a large protein-topped salad for a family to share. Einstein Bro’s bagels, Portillo’s and a host of other restaurants are getting on the new grocerant meal-kit train as well to boost sales and offer their customers more options outside of immediately consumable meals. Look out Hello Fresh, just kidding, this meal-kit maven’s shares have steadily increased in response to the demand increase for meal-kits.
In This Together
Whether you are an evolving grocerant trying to meet demand, or you’re a supermarket overwhelmed by the demand, no matter what part of the industry you are in, remember you are not alone. The one thing that has emerged in a prevalent way in the last several weeks is the advocacy that each and every food business has displayed in support of one-another. Whether it’s tech offering free use of their platform (that’s us if you haven’t checked it out yet, please do), or a restaurant lending staffers to local supermarket chains, we are all in this together. And though the future may look very different when we emerge, we will come out of this stronger and more bonded than ever. From all of us here at MenuCalc, we support you.