The Covid-19 and resulting lockdown has sped up the digitalisation of the foodservice industry, according to global leaders speaking at a recent ‘Ask Arena’ online event.
The interactive event, hosted by Robert Willock, director of the Economist Corporate Network Dubai, saw industry figures from three time zones share their views on the shape of their sectors both now and in a post-pandemic environment.
All panellists agreed that the integration of digitalisation into their businesses had been accelerated by the crisis. Elior UK chief executive Catherine Roe outlined how an increased focus on digital transformation is helping the contract caterer to further support pre-ordering services, enabling less dwell time for the consumer.
Barry Westrum, chief marketing officer of Minneapolis based Taco John’s said that online ordering had tripled during this period, adding that the business had to get “really good at digital marketing overnight”.
Meanwhile Naim Maadad, founder and of Gates Hospitality, explained how his business fast forwarded its approach to data, making it a priority to own it in order to facilitate direct engagement with customers. This, Maadad said, has enabled Gates Hospitality to maintain a strong presence and remain a valued part of the community.
The speakers also agreed that the hospitality industry has not changed dramatically by the pandemic. According to Catherine Roe, generally people miss what they don’t have and it’s simply a question of being patient.
Westrum shared this optimism, adding that hospitality will return across the board as people look for great experiences. The fun and excitement of eating out will never be replaced by cooking at home, he said.
Maadad agreed: “Dining out is part of living, and people will go back to their old routines as soon as a vaccine is introduced.”
Among the other key issues discussed were the crippling impact of no-shows on the restaurant industry and the perennial topic of discounting.
Lorraine Wood, director of Arena, described the recent Ask Arena online event as vital for sharing innovation across the industry and around the globe. “The pandemic has undoubtedly been a major challenge and not just for the world of food and hospitality. But it’s clear from the contributions of our speakers and the feedback from our audience that there is an appetite to weather the storm, with innovation and agility at the heart.