COVID-19’s impact on the UK foodservice industry

March 19, 2020
4 min read

Not so happy Mother’s Day

In the run-up to this year’s Mother’s Day in the UK (Sunday 22nd March) – a time when pubs and restaurants would normally be buzzing with people treating their mums – foodservice companies were dealt a hammerblow with people advised to socially isolate themselves. And the second blow came with the announcement stricter measures to essentially put the UK in lockdown.  

Some consumers will choose to cook at home, or even order takeaway. This could prove a catalyst for pubs and restaurants that don’t offer takeaway/delivery to start doing so, and Toby Carvery provides a potential blueprint for more pubs/bars to introduce takeaway and home delivery options.

Although pub/bar/carvery restaurants are the big favourites when it comes to eating in, they are rarely used for takeaway. In November 2019, Toby Carvery partnered with Just Eat to roll out home delivery services through Just Eat’s food delivery app a year after the carvery chain began offering click-and-collect functions through its website.

Decline in dine-in sales makes launching delivery more urgent


The decline in dine-in sales will make launching home delivery services more urgent than ever before. Partnering with popular third-party delivery apps, such as Just Eat and Deliveroo, will enable more dine-in restaurants to get their delivery services online quicker than setting up their own delivery infrastructure.

Foodservice operators could also take a cue from meal kit delivery companies as some of these, such as Mindful Chef, have reported a boost in sales as a result of increased consumer demand for online food delivery services since the virus outbreak.

Chef/restaurant operators that implement a meal kit service stand to benefit from the brand awareness they have built through their foodservice business. A fifth of Brits have bought chef/restaurant branded meal kits (such as a sushi making kit from Yo! Sushi), with a further three in ten are interested in buying despite currently not having purchased such items.

If a chef/restaurant brand has a strong and loyal customer/fan base, its own brand of meal kits will meet demand for greater at-home cooking options.

Hot pot at home


Meanwhile, some Chinese restaurants in New York have rapidly responded to the challenging conditions they face as a result of the spread of the virus. In early March, Chinese restaurant Haidilao, which specialises in hot pot dining, added new delivery services to cater to customers who have stopped going out.

Despite hot pot involving cooking contraptions such as a pot and a stove and relying on big dining parties to cook the meal themselves, Haidilao was quick to come up with a hot pot delivery solution. This hot pot delivery service includes the actual pot (US$16.99), a portable stove (US$22.98), and butane fuel (US$1.99 per piece), alongside the broths and fresh ingredients needed to make hot pot at home.

Sustainability efforts hindered in the short-term


Prior to the lockdown, Starbucks started serving all drinks in disposable cups for both drink-in and takeaway customers as a coronavirus precaution, with efforts to nudge customers to bring in reusable cups in a bid to reduce single-use disposable cups put on hold. Instead, the health and well-being of employees and customers remained the highest priority.

Consumers risked spreading the virus by bringing their own reusable carriers/vessels from home to stores. At the time of writing this blog, the Environment Secretary George Eustice is understood to be considering the idea but is not yet “at the point of making a decision” on temporarily suspending the 5p charge for supermarket carrier bags.

Meanwhile, coffee shop-branded ranges of retail products for the grocery channel could see an increase in sales as consumers are likely to shift to online grocery shopping, as opposed to visiting coffee shops and supermarkets. As a result, operators will see an upturn in sales through marketing and promoting their range of retail products, such as Costa Coffee’s Latte Smooth Sidekick Double Espresso Shot in a recyclable 250ml can featuring the Rainforest Alliance Certified logo.

Trish Caddy
Trish Caddy

Trish Caddy is a Senior Foodservice Analyst, writing reports about the UK’s eating out market. She previously worked as a restaurant cook in London.

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