COVID-19 impact on food businesses: weekly summary
March and early April saw a range of responses from the industry, some voluntary, some more a matter of business survival. Food retailers applied purchasing restrictions, in-store social distancing measures and dedicated shopping times for clinically vulnerable groups and NHS and care workers. Restaurant chains and caterers, being forced to close, were forced to either shut their doors or innovate, with a number of new partnerships and initiatives springing up to provide home delivery, take-away or click & collect services.
As April has progressed we are seeing retailers maintain their position on demand management (although purchasing restrictions have eased and empty shelves are returning to something a little more like normality for now). British Retail Consortium provide a useful summary of current retailer responses here.
Capacity building and new partnerships continue to evolve in order to meet demand for home deliveries, for example Morrisons partnering with Deliveroo, and other retailers adapting their delivery offering.
Some restaurants are reopening for take-away or delivery services, from smaller independent operators to high street names, and quick service chains.
Zooming out a little, the longer term forecast for many in the sector appears uncertain. Tesco warns that increasing sales in March and additional operating costs may balance each other out. With restaurant giants such as McDonalds acknowledging the potential for long-term negative impacts and Burger King not making its April rent payments, the industry cry for more government support for the sector is getting louder.
We’ll be keeping an eye on the financials across the sector, with some stakeholders arguing for any economic re-boot to be an opportunity for all industries, food included, to make sustainability, resilience and social responsibilities more central to their core strategy.