Foodservice sector’s recovery on a steady path with technological assistance

Mapping the course of foodservice sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vikram Goel, Managing Director, Rational International India Pvt. Ltd discusses about the sector's future in the backdrop technological advancements.

2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic which grappled the world economy by claiming human lives and livelihood, the crisis transferred traditional manual businesses to about 5-6 years ago in terms of performance and revenue generation. The people’s industry, the hospitality sector, was left beleaguered in light of the pandemic scare, the subsequent prolonged lockdowns and the arrested consumer sentiments. 

Cash-strapped for quite some time, the foodservice sector which works on a high-risk model and needs liquid cash in real-time for its mere survival witnessed the worst dark days during the pandemic as the whole sector at large throughout the country was on the brink of collapsing due to no support from the government and minimal to zero sales and bleeding fixed costs. Despite it all, the foodservice sector remains strong and resilient to date. 

Recognised for long to adapt, improvise and overcome, the hospitality sector in the country, though remaining shuttered, saw ideas that kept brewing behind the shutters of how to tackle the ongoing hurdle and rise above it to be able to serve its patrons soon. The foremost breakthrough that has helped the industry from shelling additional capital and ensuring high ROI is technological assistance. Right from data-keeping for promotional activities to smart kitchen equipment, technology certainly helped them to thrive during pre-COVID times, but with the outbreak of the pandemic, the dynamics of technology’s application at the restaurant changed. 

Viewing the demand for outside food still intact and the government allowing home-delivered food, sit-down restaurants quickly shifted to accepting orders increasingly on FoodService Aggregator (FSA) channels like Swiggy, Zomato, or on their inhouse built website/ app. To ensure a seamless experience is provided to the patrons while also rolling a sum of money to support the sector, the food business owners ideated several signature DIY kits, souvenirs, and the best-in-class hygiene promise by abiding by strict norms and regulations issued by the government. 

Maintaining high safety standards and serving savouries catering to everybody’s all-time snacking desire, the bakery segment saw a significant boom in business through the pandemic. People kept striving for delectable croissants, puff pastries, succulent burgers and much more that came pre-packed from the central kitchen and just needed to be quickly popped into the oven before having. This hub and spoke business model guaranteed minimal human touch, and hence more buyers resulting in the rise in business for the bakery segment. 

Though the year 2020 brought in a crisis, it was also the year that saw great ideas. Providing an opportunity for new-age foodservice brands to thrive, the cloud kitchen model saw ideal grounds to register bullish growth during the trying times. As per Valuates Reports, the global cloud kitchen market size was valued at USD 43.1 Billion in 2019 and is estimated to reach USD 71.4 Billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 12 per cent from 2021 to 2027. With such booming potential, tapping into the cloud kitchen space was not just for the new entrants but also for established restaurateurs to open a cloud kitchen outpost.

Not just it, but also, restaurants installed QR-coded touchless menus, touchless payments channels, smart new-age tech-enabled kitchen equipment, among several other additions in a bid to ensure fool-proof hygiene, consistent performance and high productivity. Despite the crisis, the foodservice sector invested heavily on technology with one consolidated aim – to deliver valuable experiences without compromising on anything.  

Recovering from the plummeting performance in 2020, the restaurant sector is slowly seeing the light on the other side of the tunnel, with the rightful use of technology put into use. Likewise, corporate catering that was impacted majorly with almost all the offices switching to work-from-home model amid the pandemic, the times though being still turbulent, it is slowly on the recovery path, as many workplaces are reopening and are willing to reinstate their canteen and corporate catering contracts on the back of heightened safety and hygiene protocols. This has induced a thought process within the corporate caterers to upgrade their kitchen set up to the new-age one. Also, recently a Dineout Report forecast that the restaurant industry will re-hire 1 Mn people by end of 2021 as it is on track of its recovery. 

These positive sentiments showcase that technology has indeed worked in favour of the sector to help overcome the reeling adverse effects brought in by the pandemic. With technology being the silver lining for the sector to thrive, there is much room for innovation to make the dining experience seamless.


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