[Updated] Technomic’s Take: COVID-19, The Foodservice View

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COVID-19 Update 5-15

This week, we explore consumer perspectives, habits and comfortability with social distancing measures within restaurants as some regions begin to open back up. We’ll also dive into how different dayparts are affected, as well as the growing scrutiny over third-party delivery practices. Read on for a preview of Technomic’s latest Foodservice Impact Monitor.

Consumer perspective on social distancing measures within restaurants

Following CDC guidelines for safe social distancing, half of consumers would be comfortable dining in at restaurants with a 6-foot distance between tables. However, more than a quarter would be more comfortable with 9-15 feet.

More consumers willing to social distance than wear protective gear

More than half of consumers would follow social distancing measures, but less than half would be willing to wear a mask or gloves when in a restaurant. Consumers ages 35-44 are more likely to wear a mask to be able to dine in.

Atlanta and Georgia behaviors

Most consumers in Georgia report being likely to avoid places where people gather, an increase of 29% for consumers in Atlanta and 22% for Georgians excluding those in Atlanta. Nerves may be the reason for the uptick which has impacted intentions to order off-premise. More Georgians in the past week also say they would order more food from the drive-thru and delivery.

Differing consumer perspectives in populated vs. rural areas

Consumers living in suburbs, small towns and rural areas are increasingly expecting the coronavirus to impact their behavior for more than four months. Consumers living in cities are split on the subject, with just over half (54%) of consumers in large cities anticipating the impact of the coronavirus on their behavior to last longer than four months.

Spending continues to tick upward

Consumer spending increased by 4% this past week and has crossed the $40,000 per 1,000 consumer mark for the first time since the week of March 15. At the present rate of change, this puts a total recovery of lost spending (back to 2019 levels) well into 2022, as the cumulative impact of the pandemic now sits at a total loss of 31% of expected industrywide spending.

A quicker rebound to the market will require far higher increases in spending week over week. This is looking increasingly unlikely as markets start to reopen in highly fragmented stages and public health risks remain heightened nationwide.

The impact on different dayparts varies

With consumers shifting to working remotely, there are fewer occasions to grab food on the way to work, as average past week claimed visits for breakfast occasions continue to be challenged. Lunch and dinner are the least impacted dayparts, with the dinner daypart registering the highest increase on claimed visits in the most recent week.

Growing scrutiny of third-party delivery practices

Recent negative media around third-party delivery fees raises questions

Restaurants, many of which are fully reliant on third-party delivery for survival during the pandemic, worry that the commission fees associated with third-party delivery are cutting deep into their revenues. Commissions and fees can be as high as 30%-40% depending on the services that the operator selects. Independent restaurant owners and operators have been vocal about fees, encouraging their customers to opt for direct delivery or pickup if they truly want to support their neighborhood restaurant.

Growing number of municipalities capping third-party delivery fees

To support the restaurant industry, municipalities are enacting legislation that caps third-party delivery fees. Jersey City, N.J., was one of the more recent cities to enact such a rule, capping the fees of delivery orders within the city to 10% of the order total. Other cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Santa Cruz, Calif., have enacted similar caps.

New focus on legislation requiring disclosure of fees to customers

Starting on May 22, 2020, in Chicago, third-party delivery companies will be required to provide all customers with an itemized receipt that discloses all charges, including food costs, taxes, delivery fees and what the restaurants pay to the third-party delivery company in fees and commissions. Chicago is the first city in the U.S. to implement the rule, which is designed to enhance consumer transparency and allow for fair competition.

Industry activism designed to directly support local businesses on the rise

Foodservice players are coming together to help consumers support their favorite local restaurants directly rather than relying on third-party delivery services. Foood.com was designed by veterans of the foodservice industry to provide consumers with a central location to search for restaurants that deliver. The page connects them directly to the restaurant’s website for ordering, rather than a third-party delivery platform.

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COVID-19 Update 5-8

Each week, Technomic’s Foodservice Impact Monitor explores sentiment and behavior tracking as it relates to the pandemic to help support foodservice industry professionals with the transition from crisis response to near- and long-term planning. Below is a preview of this week’s findings, including supply chain disruptions, risk mitigation activities and updates on curbside, drive-thru and delivery occasions.

Supply chain issues likely to continue

As news of outbreaks within the food supply chain spread, restaurant operators started to grow wearier of their prospects. Concerns about commodity spikes and/or shortages are compounding the negative outlook operators already had because of the impact of shelter-in-place orders and consumer changes in behavior. Operators are taking extraordinary measures to ensure the health and safety of their staff and customers alike, as many recognize the failure to do so could lead to rebound in contagion rates, put their staff in danger and undermine their growth.

The good news is that curbside, drive-thru and limited takeout appear to be growing to levels that are allowing sustainable levels of sales to occur for many operators, despite limited dine-in capacity.

Meat supply chain challenges

Working in tight quarters, employees at meat-packing plants across the country have gotten sick from the coronavirus. This caused lulls in production and left farmers and ranchers with hogs, cattle and chicken that they can feed but can’t sell. This has caused major grocery chains like Kroger and Costco to add purchase limits on meat to prevent pantry loading and keep meat in stock. To reduce waste, smaller meat suppliers are selling their products in parking lots directly to consumers. Wayne Farms, a chicken plant in North Carolina, sold 200,000 pounds in a day to consumers who were freezing and canning most of their purchases. This also helped Wayne Farms make up some of the sales lost because of decreased restaurant and processor demand.

Quick-service restaurant chains have also felt the pain of recent meat shortages. Analysts are estimating that 1,000 of Wendy’s 5,500 chains are not serving burgers or other beef products. Compared to its competitors, Wendy’s is more susceptible to a beef shortage as it relies on fresh beef versus frozen. Some experts report the next wave of shortages will come in the form of pork, and bacon supplies are vulnerable.

Operators focus on risk mitigation

Operators are taking the health and wellness of their employees and customers seriously, reporting a wide variety of strategies to reduce the risk of infections. Whether through masks, gloves or spacing out the dining room to maintain physical distance, the actions that operators take will prove important to how the rest of the pandemic plays out. Operators with higher dwell times, smaller spaces and high traffic will face greater risks than others. These activities will be crucial to the success of the reopening plans within each state. Because the CDC guidelines for reopening appear to be hidden from the public, news outlets have released them to help provide guidance to businesses looking to reopen safely. They can be found here.

Off-premise sales will remain prevalent

Our research shows that off-premise sales will be a more prominent feature of the business in the future. This will have an impact on how each restaurant goes to market. Many have had to adjust their long-held positions on whether to adopt delivery or not, whether to add a drive-thru to a more upscale fast casual and how to manage curbside pickup. It is likely that the viability of a business will be dependent upon catering to consumers through new pathways. Opening the restaurant to provide service through multiple off-premise channels both online and inside the building will be crucial to success.

Many operators saw sales from third-party delivery jump and remain historically high after March 15

While most operators saw 5%-20% of sales from third-party partners prior to March 15, more than 40% of operators saw 40% or more of their sales come from third-party delivery.

Operators need support with basic food and beverage information

Detailed product and COVID-19 information is what operators want most. They want to know what products to serve and how to address issues like shortages. Food and beverage product support is particularly significant to the healthcare segment. Operators want a summary of the laws and regulations they must follow, as well as personalized advice on how to address the issue and drive business. Communication and transparency are becoming increasingly valued, and operators need partners they can trust.

Most consumers will wait more than a month to return to restaurants

Though shifts from the previous week see slightly more consumers planning to return to restaurants within one to four weeks after the outbreak ends, 56% of consumers continue to indicate that their return will be stalled by more than a month. This increases further among consumers ages 65 and older (67%) and women (64%).

Consumers most concerned about sanitization of customer touch points

As these touch points necessitate customer interaction, consumers are likely to look for ways to minimize their own exposure. Employee education and safety, through the procedures of wearing masks and gloves, are also key to consumers. This sentiment is mostly driven by older consumers, specifically those ages 55-64 (84%).

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COVID-19 Update 5-1

Get the latest foodservice industry update as it relates to the pandemic with this preview of Technomic’s Foodservice Impact Monitor, which shares sentiment and behavior tracking to help you plan and strategize for an uncertain future. This week, we look into consumer eagerness and reluctance to get back to away-from-home activities, off-premise occasions pushing innovation in restaurants and conflicting opinions about when it’s safe to reopen.

Spending continues a slow rebound

Consumer spending estimates bottomed out at a decrease of 35% of expected sales the week of April 12 and has grown to a level that may be pulling us off the bottom of the market. The cumulative loss in spending has declined for the first week since the start of the pandemic. However, it is important to note that previous weeks showed fluctuations that could foretell more up and down movement in the trends in coming weeks.

Off-premise ordering at FSRs sees high growth this week

Ordering by nondelivery, off-premise methods has increased across all segments this week. For fast-food restaurants, this was driven by drive-thru orders (59%). Growth at FSRs was driven by a mix of drive-thru and takeout orders. Overall, casual-dining and fine-dining restaurants saw the largest jump (+13 points) from the week of April 19-26. Family-style restaurants saw a growth of 11 points, and buffet-style restaurant orders also increased by 10 points this week.

Disagreements over when reopening will be feasible

While some governors have already announced plans to begin reopening businesses, including restaurants, some state officials and business owners think it is still too early to reopen. Many health officials agree with this sentiment. This map shows the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s suggested dates for relaxing social distancing. These are based on their current projections of the virus caseload and healthcare capacity in each state. It remains likely that we will see a relatively staggered reopening across the U.S. as some states delay reopening until there is greater consensus on what is safe.

Note: States shaded in gray have begun the reopening process. IHME’s model does not yet consider how easing restrictions during the reopening process will affect COVID-19 trends in different states.

Consumers’ comfort with certain outings shifts

While the majority of consumers indicate more caution when it comes to restaurants opening (preferring to wait more than a month after restrictions lift), 32% say they feel comfortable going out to eat at a restaurant as soon as social distancing restrictions are lifted.

Conflicting state plans cause uncertainty among business owners and consumers

Increasing Risks in Rural Counties

Alongside the news of meat-packing plants becoming the new hot spots in the outbreak has come a creeping increase in the risk of the virus spreading throughout rural communities in the agricultural belt. Most contagion models factor in population density as a proxy measure for physical closeness. Confined factory settings and other institutional settings like schools, hospitals and nursing homes can amplify the risks because they represent closed or tightly interwoven social networks. Some of the faster-growing areas of disease risk, according to Shortest Track’s Disruption Index, are occurring in some of the states that have started to reopen.

Consumers Eager Yet Reluctant to Socialize

Consumers across the nation report excitement about getting out to visit friends and family, but they are not yet entirely comfortable doing so. In particular, the number of consumers who report that they will wait a month or more before returning to regular restaurant patronage has grown significantly this week, as it has each week of the pandemic.

Restaurants Innovate

Because of the sudden shift to off-premise, it has taken time for many restaurants to find their menu and marketing footing. Consumers seeking comfort and connection can find new marketing tie-ins from major casual-dining chains, like Red Lobster or The Cheesecake Factory, designed to import the night-out experience into the home. New limited-time offers, promotional pricing and menu items have hit the market to capitalize on the dueling needs of comfort and health, as well as provide discounts for customers dealing with economic uncertainty.

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COVID-19 Update 4/24

Get the latest COVID-19 update with this preview of Technomic’s Foodservice Impact Monitor, which shares sentiment and behavior tracking to help support you in the transition from crisis response to near- and long-term planning for after the pandemic. This week’s highlights include sentiments about reopening the economy, consumer employment situations and how operators are managing decreases in sales.

Uncertainty surrounds how and when to reopen the economy

Conflicting opinions between federal, state and local officials
With the publication of federal guidelines, some states have received mixed signals from high-level officials on the proper timing of reopening. There is a vocal segment of the population pushing their states to reopen and a handful of states are moving in that direction, despite public health warnings of a prolonged outbreak in their states.

Public health projections on the timing of the pandemic are a work in progress
Testing protocols have reached their current capacity and there is growing concern that previously reported plateaus reflect a peak in the number of tests being provided as opposed to an actual peak in new cases. These concerns are growing due to the discovery of previously unknown cases that occurred weeks or months before the formally diagnosed cases appeared in the marketplace.

Consumers and operators will not be rushing back
Despite their expressed excitement and love for restaurants and the experience they provide, consumers report a growing reluctance to quickly return to normal restaurant behaviors. This is likely due to both ongoing concerns for safety as well as the massive amount of job loss currently being experienced in the market. For these reasons, this week, we turned our attention to more detailed insights around off-premise services and safety. Operators are also showing drops in optimism about the pace of reopening. Despite potentially experiencing the bottom of the sales drop, many operators are reporting that they do not expect a quick recovery and expect a prolonged ramp-up period.

Off-premise will likely continue its rise in importance, even after the pandemic
The pandemic has likely sped up the adoption curve for delivery across the industry. Prior to the pandemic, many operators were experiencing a steady climb in the share of orders through digital channels. Consumers are now getting a crash course in using digital platforms for restaurant transactions and usage has proliferated. From an operator’s perspective, tensions are rising between them and some third-party delivery players during this period, which may result in some operators considering moving toward self-delivery, as off-premise business grows.

Hot spots are emerging outside of major metropolitan areas

This Disruption Index factors local infection rates, social distancing practices/guidelines, mobile data, population density, disease states that increase risks associated with COVID-19 and other lifestyle factors into the score. Counties with heavier shading indicate a higher disruption score.

Beyond the obvious urban hot spots, as well as those in California and the Northeast, hot spots that could experience a prolonged impact are emerging in more rural areas and smaller states. Counties in Utah, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland are all showing higher than average rises in the Disruption Index and may be areas of future concern.

*Source: https://shortesttrack.market/covid-19 | Data updated April 24, 2020

Food and beverage sales have decreased over 50% for a third of operators reporting declines

The 16% of operators reporting a greater than 70% decrease in food and beverage sales is driven largely by beyond restaurant operators (37%)—some of which have had to stop their foodservice business entirely.

Operators are promoting comfort and convenience to their guests

To better support the consumer in hectic times, operators are increasingly promoting comfort foods and low-prep options like family-style and ready-to-heat meals.

The apparent decrease in the success of these promotions could be due to an increase in competitive offerings and promotions in the marketplace, which highlights a need for operators to stay creative by considering new ways to add value for guests.

More consumers have been impacted within the past week

Fifty-six percent (56%) of consumers indicate that their employment situation has not changed. However, about a fifth (19%) of consumers anticipate that their job will be impacted in the future. Like those who have already experienced employment hardships, consumers expecting a negative impact are also likely to cut back on current spending.

Coupons and promotions are significant restaurant drivers

Coupons and promotions are especially popular among consumers with kids under the age of 18 (55%) and consumers ages 25-34 (54%).

Most consumers prefer that the third-party delivery fee goes directly to the driver, likely as personal financial concerns put enhanced focus on employee welfare.

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COVID-19 Update 4/17

This information is pulled from Technomic’s Foodservice Impact Monitor, which shares sentiment and behavior tracking to help support you in the transition from crisis response to near- and long-term planning. View some highlights pulled from the most recent report below, focusing more on recovery than COVID-19 responses, as we continue to enter a “new normal” in the foodservice industry.

The ‘Four S’ Process of Recovery

Survival. The first month of the recovery was focused on containing and minimizing the economic damage that the pandemic was causing. Restaurants scrambled to adjust to off-premise service or closed entirely opting to focus on lobbying efforts to gain stimulus dollars to help seed their survival. Industry participants across the board were heavily concerned about customer and employee safety, and sought to strike a balance between business survival and health.

Start. The economy will be reopening in rolling waves geographically and within markets in tiers of activity, focused on social distancing and contagion-mitigation guidelines. This will entail a slow return of regular business patterns with a release of pent-up demand that is tempered by growing unemployment and ongoing efforts to control the contagion. Part of this plan should entail enhanced safety measures; streamlined operations and menus; and the all-important rehiring and retraining of employees who have been furloughed or laid off. Strengthen. During this phase, businesses across the industry will need to reinvent how they come to market. As physical distancing measures lift, suppliers and operators alike will need to assess how to move forward. This will entail reevaluating your customer strategy, pricing framework, SKU lists and menu boards.

Strengthen. During this phase, businesses across the industry will need to reinvent how they come to market. As physical distancing measures lift, suppliers and operators alike will need to assess how to move forward. This will entail reevaluating your customer strategy, pricing framework, SKU lists and menu boards.

Surge. During this stage, businesses will evaluate the damage done to the industry, invest in new risk-mitigation strategies and force a reconsideration of various regulatory frameworks. The mindset at this stage is focused on the rebuilding, reorganization and renewal of business processes. The supply chain, restaurant operations, ordering systems and delivery mechanisms will be rethought and rebuilt to strengthen capacities.

The COVID-19 outbreak will have a significant impact on the overall foodservice situation for 2020

Best Case Scenario

  • Most shelter-in-place orders across the country stay in effect until mid-Q2 with a rolling regional economic reopening thereafter
  • Assumption of a recession through the second half of 2020
  • Limited virus resurgence causes some local reactivation of shelter-in-place mandates throughout the year

Middle Case Scenario

  • This case employs a midpoint between the Best Case Scenario and Worst Case Scenario

Worst Case Scenario

  • Most shelter-in-place order stay in effect through the end of the second quarter, with a rolling regional economic reopening thereafter
  • Assumption of a recession through the second half of 2020 causing weakness in consumer spending
  • More widespread virus resurgence results in regional reactivation of shelter-in-place mandates throughout the year
  • Large-scale events (e.g., sporting events, concerts, etc.) mostly suspended for the remainder of the year

 

Food Waste
With most of the restaurants in the U.S. closed or reduced to off-premise, the food supply chain been thrown somewhat into disarray.

Closing Facilities
Smithfield Foods shut down its processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., after an outbreak of the virus. This single facility produces 5% of the nation’s pork, and it joins a growing list of food production facilities closing due to COVID-19.

Shifting Demand
While it can still be difficult to find some consumer food staples in grocery stores, the supply chain has struggled to keep up with the unprecedented demand shift from foodservice to retail. Given the packaging, labeling and specification differences between foodservice and retail, it is often difficult to simply shift and sell products intended for foodservice to retail.

Food Prices Rise
Global market prices for rice and wheat have risen since the outbreak. Even as production facilities are destroying eggs that they can’t sell, egg prices have risen to a record high, before falling again just recently.

While consumers claiming to have skipped restaurants in the past week is still at its highest, it was flat compared to the previous week

For the week beginning April 6, consumers claiming that they did not visit any restaurants in the past week began stabilizing.

After an initial surge on preference to use third-party delivery service among consumers who ordered online, this trend is declining in recent weeks

Consumers appear to be reverting to using a restaurant’s website or app when ordering online during their most recent visit. However, the share of thirdparty orders still remains significantly higher than pandemic levels.

Consumers are growing restless
As stay-at-home measures continue and spring weather emerges, consumers cannot wait for restaurants to open again. Consumers who live in a large city are more likely to continue to order foods and beverages from restaurants.

We are here to help
We will release weekly updates to this whitepaper, offering ongoing insights into consumer preferences, as well as impacts and guidance, as the industry continues to shift. Sign up to receive these updates directly to your inbox.

COVID-19 Update 4/10

This information is pulled from Technomic’s Foodservice Impact Monitor, which shares sentiment and behavior tracking to help support you in the transition from crisis response to near- and long-term planning. View some highlights pulled from the most recent report below.

The outbreak hit the industry just as it picked up its momentum for the year

The first two months of the year were shaping up well for the industry, with a roughly 4% increase in sales year over year for the months of January and February—months which are typically slower historically. Typically, March sees 12% higher sales than February—the lowest month of the year. Right now, our preliminary projections for March fall between a 31% and 48% drop in sales from February—a net loss of 43% to 60% from the expected monthly sales gain typically seen in March.

Sales and traffic declines more extreme for beyond restaurant operators

More than half (57%) of beyond restaurant operators report a sales decrease of more than 70% over the prior year, and 63% report a traffic decrease of more than 70% over the prior year. These staggering sales and traffic declines continue to be more prominent for beyond restaurant operators as most are completely shut down and don’t have the opportunity to pivot to delivery or takeout.

Hot spots are emerging outside of major metropolitan areas

Beyond the obvious urban hot spots, as well as those in California and the Northeast, areas that could experience a prolonged impact are emerging in more rural areas of key states. Counties in eastern Washington and California, as well as rural counties in Louisiana and Florida, are all showing elevated disruption risk. This Disruption Index factors local infection rates, social distancing practices/guidelines, mobile data, population density, disease states that increase risks associated with COVID-19 and other lifestyle factors into the score. Counties with heavier shading indicate a higher disruption score.

Adult beverages

We have seen a drastic drop in volume of orders placed for adult beverages in March, but an equally drastic rise in the average ticket price of receipts. This is driven by the remaining sales being predominately bulk packaged goods orders. There is a slight drop-off in the average ticket price for liquor receipts for the week of March 30, likely indicating that consumers have a reached a threshold for the ticket price they are willing to pay for liquor.

These graphs depict the year-over-year growth of beer and liquor between the week in 2020 and the corresponding week in 2019.

Paycheck Protection Program loan update

The CARES Act allocates $349 billion in federal loans to help small businesses cover the cost of employee compensation as well as rent, mortgage and utilities costs. These loans are subject to complete forgiveness if a business avoids reduction in employee numbers or employee pay during the loan period. Since its start on April 3, hundreds of thousands of small businesses have applied for PPP loans through the SBA. The high number of applicants, while attesting to the program’s need, has overwhelmed many lending institutions, that either do not have the capacity to process so many applications or have already hit their lending caps as laid out in the CARES Act. In response to this high demand, many lenders have stopped accepting new applications or are only accepting applications from existing customers.

While many of the questions, confusions and concerns surrounding the PPP program do not yet have clear answers and solutions, the below resources provide detailed information about the application process.

 

We are here to help

We will release weekly updates to this whitepaper, offering ongoing insights into consumer preferences, as well as impacts and guidance, as the industry continues to shift. Sign up to receive these updates directly to your inbox.

COVID Update 4/03

Within the past week, it became clear that the timing and scope of the pandemic will be highly localized because of fragmented government actions and variable social distancing practices by location. This will likely lead to a geography-dependent economic recovery timeline, with early adopter states experiencing a potentially quicker return to normal compared to later adopters. This COVID-19 update from Technomic’s Foodservice Impact Monitor explores the continued effect on the industry, including consumer spending leveling off and some innovative initiatives from operators.

Industry Impact

Unemployment claims have grown from 3 million the previous week to over 6 million in the last report. It remains to be seen if the government stimulus will be enough to counteract that extreme shock to employment. Presently, our industry forecast outlook remains the same as last week. We expect declines in year-over-year industry revenue to be:

  • Nominal: -12.4% to -27.5%
  • Real: -14.5% to -29.3%

The decrease in consumer spending levels off slightly

We are seeing a potential leveling off of consumer spending after notable decreases during the first three weeks of March. Even though consumers report that they will continue to reduce their spending, their actual spending pattern has flattened within the survey’s margin of error. Spending per 1,000 consumers is still 21% lower than prior to the pandemic. However, this represents an improvement of 3 percentage points from the week before. The level of consumers ordering more restaurant food for drive-thru and delivery is unchanged from last week, potentially indicating that consumers are settling into a new routine.

Consumers increasing delivery and curbside orders as operators offer more options

Consumers may be settling into a more predictable pattern of behavior. Our research points toward an uptick in the incidence of delivery and takeout/curbside/drive-thru orders compared to the previous week—the week consumer spending may have bottomed out.

Operators are shifting their messaging, rethinking LTOs and innovating

Operators are seeking to create experiences for their customers at home. To fill the void of the community and social aspects of dining, restaurants are seeking to create experiences for their customers that promote connections to family and friends through shareable family meals and meal kits, as well as promoting virtual shared meals or happy hours online. The traditional idea of an LTO has changed in response to the new environment. Instead of single innovative, buzzworthy menu items, operators are turning to family and boxed meals as a new type of LTO.

Some other innovative initiatives we’ve seen include:

  • Evolved meal kits. Chains are generally looking to fulfill two demands: replicating the dining-out experience at home and offering solutions that provide families relief from cooking and shopping. In China, Banu Hot Pot developed a platform for guests to experience the communal hotpot meals in their homes. And, in Indonesia, Es Teler 77 offers heat-and-serve versions of its classic dishes for busy families.
  • Grocery offerings. Some chains are expanding their product selections beyond food and drink to include basic pantry staples, groceries and cleaning products. McDonald’s this week began selling bottles of milk and bags of bread in Australia, while Domino’s partnered with consumer goods firm ITC Foods to delivery pantry essentials in India. Dodo Pizza plans to sell hand sanitizer at its shops in Russia.
  • Sharing staff. McDonald’s formed an employee sharing partnership with Aldi in Germany. The initiative allows McDonald’s staff to quickly sign up for temporary work with the retailer while restaurant operations remain limited. Staff sharing partnerships such as this solve for both companies’ temporary needs. In McDonald’s case, it reduces excess staff the chain does not need now but will in a few months. For Aldi, it addresses the short-term surge in its grocery business.

We’re here to help. We will release weekly updates from original research as COVID-19 continues to unfold and will be offering ongoing insights into consumer preferences, impacts and guidance on off-premise occasions as well as the rapidly shifting state of the industry. Sign up to receive these updates directly to your inbox.

COVID Update 3/27

The second update on COVID-19 from Technomic’s Foodservice Impact Monitor explores the continued effect on the industry, including economic projections, restaurant adaptations for dine-in alternatives, increased strain on particular segments and efforts being put toward policy changes and government support.

Economic projections disagree on long-term outlook but agree that in the short term shows a cratering in GDP

There is wide disagreement about whether COVID-19 will be an economic shock with a sharp recovery or if it will pull the economy into a sluggish recession. The previous worst quarter in U.S. history for GDP was Q2 2009, immediately after the economic crash. That quarter, the GDP dove by 3.9%, a fraction of the projections we are seeing as a result of COVID-19. The economic shock from this event is unprecedented.

Consumer spending on foodservice continues to drop. For the average consumer, Technomic research suggests that spending has declined by an estimated 45% from a typical week in February, with further planned reductions expected to come. Consumer demand is still present in the marketplace, but as the pandemic has heightened and concerns have grown, a new normal is setting in. Shelter-in-place and social distancing actions have resulted in fewer occasion-oriented opportunities for foodservice usage. Office closures enforcing more telecommuting means fewer off-premise lunch occasions, especially in urban and suburban locations. This is having an impact on QSR and fast-casual business in particular.

Operators increasingly concerned with the negative impact of COVID-19

While operators are most likely to feel the virus is most negatively impacting the U.S. economy, sales and profits, a staggering 70% of operators are concerned that COVID-19 will have a negative impact on their ability to even remain in business.

Majority of states have instituted stay-at-home orders for all or some of the state, requiring restaurant adaptations

Stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders force the closure of all nonessential businesses (the definition of which varies from state to state). Residents are generally still permitted to go outside, to the grocery store or to the doctor, but these orders represent a significant shutdown of state economies and stricter enforcement of social distancing. Along with these orders, most states are prohibiting dine-in services or placing strict capacity limits, allowing only for pickup, drive-thru and delivery services.

Although many restaurants were participating in delivery and takeout prior to the outbreak, operators have adjusted their offerings and added promotions to encourage dine-in alternatives. Promotions include free or discounted delivery, curbside pickup, digital payment options, daily deals or specials and adult beverage options. Some are scaling back menu offerings or promoting family meals to improve operational efficiencies. Many have partnered with third-party delivery apps to increase their visibility and delivery radius.

Operational changes critical to COVID-19 response

Among half of operators, the closure of dine-in service has also led to a reduction in staff and operating hours. A renewed attention to sanitation practices has also been at the forefront of operation reaction to the virus—51% have retrained staff on food safety and cleaning practices, 44% have introduced new food safety measures and 40% have started cleaning kiosks more often.

Operator relief efforts

In terms of operator relief efforts, we’re seeing:

  • Royalty relief with franchisors extending deadlines
  • Rent deferments
  • Crowdfunding to assist struggling restaurants
  • Government relaxation of alcohol delivery restrictions
  • Waiving of delivery subscription fees
  • Delays for remodeling and other reinvestments
  • Shifting menus to focus on the most important and operationally effective menu items
  • Chains tapping into credit

As part of the federal stimulus package, restaurants with more than one location and fewer than 500 employees can borrow up to 2.5 times their monthly payroll or $10 million, whichever is lower. Chain affiliations are not a factor in determining eligibility, which is a major win for franchisees.

We’re here to help. We will release weekly updates from original research as COVID-19 continues to unfold and will be offering ongoing insights into consumer preferences, impacts and guidance on off-premise occasions as well as the rapidly shifting state of the industry. Sign up to receive these updates directly to your inbox.

COVID Update 3/20

COVID-19 continues to disrupt the entire foodservice industry and will only continue to have significant consequences. Using our current understanding of the crisis, we modeled out numerous scenarios to understand the scope of its impact. Presently, the expected foodservice impact ranges from a decline of 11% to 27% in year-over-year growth for 2020. But while most of the changes seem grim, there are also signs of hope, specifically from the operators who are adapting their service model in response to the new environment.

It’s no surprise that travel and leisure will take the biggest hit. The business and industry sector is being severely impacted by office closures and plant shutdowns, and educational losses will be steep but tempered slightly by schools continuing to serve impoverished members of the community. Full-service restaurants are impacted by state and local mandates to close dining areas. All segments are impacted by the increasing number of municipalities and states enacting shelter-in-place orders. At face value, one would assume that hospital foodservice would benefit from the outbreak, however, patient quarantines limit guest visitation.

Operators pivoting to off-premise models and helping each other with crowdfunding campaigns and lobbying for aid packages have showcased the resilience of the industry. For those who are operating, a pivot to meet the needs of underserved communities or the underserviced needs of consumers who seek connections at a distance has proven to be the best path forward.

Dine-in prohibited in increasing number of states

Each day, an increasing number of states are prohibiting dine-in services in restaurants or placing strict capacity limits, asking restaurants to rely on pickup, drive-thru and delivery services. Third-party delivery apps like DoorDash and Grubhub have announced that they are eliminating, suspending or reducing commission fees for restaurants during restaurant closures.

School closures threaten $22.8 billion K-12 foodservice industry

All states have closed at least some school districts, with more instituting statewide closures each day. Many states, however, are continuing to provide meals during the closures that students can pick up from schools or designated distribution centers.

The spread of the coronavirus remains the top news issue

The COVID-19 situation has also increased in importance for consumers ages 18-34 from 53% in week one to 66% in week two, though not shown in the graph. Concerns over the stock market also increased as the markets reacted strongly to the spread of the virus and economic uncertainty.

In looking at consumers’ behaviors at restaurants, there is a sharp increase in those within the U.S. population who are not likely to visit restaurants. Instead, they are primarily turning to delivery or drive-thrus.

Conclusions

Today, however, there are specific considerations that industry participants must take to weather the storm and be in a better position when we all get to the other side. For operators, the decision they face is in regards to pivoting toward takeout and delivery (with many who have little experience in this area) versus an entire shutdown.

For suppliers, it entails:

  • Being transparent with all trading partners regarding their response to COVID-19 and safeguards taking place within their organizations.
  • Start adjusting plans based on lower industry volume expectations.
  • Explore micro-niche opportunities, including products that are more conducive for delivery.

We will release weekly updates from original research as COVID-19 continues to unfold.

March 5, 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has become a familiar part of our lexicon in a very short period of time. Since its appearance in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, world and government agencies are fearful that the COVID-19 outbreak could turn into the world’s most severe pandemic since the H1N1 influenza of 1918. As of March 4, more than 93,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed, resulting in over 3,000 deaths. China represents more than 85% of the cases and about 95% of the fatalities, however, the virus has spread to over 73 countries and territories and the number of cases outside of China is growing at concerning rates. The outbreak is expected to have a major impact on an already tenuous worldwide economy, with economists recently downgrading global GDP expectations anywhere from 0.3% to 0.7% for 2020.

Within the U.S., the first confirmed case of coronavirus appeared in mid-January. Since then, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. has surpassed 125, resulting in nine deaths. Healthcare professionals believe there are many more cases, as testing has been sporadic, and that it is not a question of if, but when, the virus will become more widespread.

Relative to U.S. impact, economists can only speculate as we are still in the very early stages. There is no question that the longer the virus is not contained and anxiety persists, few sectors will be spared. The foodservice industry could experience significant challenges, given the strong human element inherent in both preparing meals and the act of dining outside the home, presenting both supply and demand issues for the industry.

We have developed this whitepaper to provide some understanding to foodservice professionals on the consumer view of COVID-19 and its potential impact on the foodservice industry. Original research was conducted with 1,000 consumers from Feb. 28 to March 2 to best understand their behaviors, attitudes and possible reactions to a more widespread outbreak of COVID-19. It should be noted that there are certainly other far-reaching potential effects, such as those relating to supply chain and employee health, but this discussion will focus on consumer implications. Technomic will stay on top developments with new thought leadership on the impact of COVID-19 as the situation unfolds.

Coronavirus: The Top News Issue

Consumers are certainly well aware of the COVID-19 situation and outbreak taking hold. Among a number of different current events, more consumers indicate that they are closely following this story than any other story, with the next most-followed story being the Democratic primary, but by 21% fewer consumers compared to coronavirus.

That being said, Americans are somewhat torn on what to think about COVID-19 right now. Overall, 30% believe that the news is being blown out of proportion, with another 25% not knowing what to think about its overall impact. In terms of being a threat to themselves or their families, 42% believe that COVID-19 fits this description, but the remaining 58% disagree or are unsure.

Among Americans following the coronavirus story closely, 86% indicate that this situation is important to them personally, and 82% believe it will eventually have a negative effect on the U.S. economy. So, even though some do not see coronavirus as a health threat to themselves and their families, there are other threats related to personal financial positions and routines about which Americans are concerned.

Consumer Responses

Consumers feel that their behaviors and attitudes are likely to be impacted by ongoing developments. The most likely action is to avoid crowds, which translates into reducing social interactions. More concerning for foodservice, more than three in 10 consumers say they plan on leaving the house less often, not go to restaurants as often or not order food or beverages at away-from-home venues as often. And among those who say they will not go to restaurant as often, 31% say that decreased frequency will last for between one and three months. It is interesting to note that only 13% believe that they will order more via restaurant delivery because of the crisis.

The reduced foodservice visit incidence could be a boon for the grocery business, as almost half of these consumers say they will stockpile grocery foods and beverages as a substitute for away-from-home meals. Meanwhile, other consumers are concerned about their potential need to move away from foodservice due to the crisis as its benefits are ingrained into their lifestyles. These consumers may not have the cooking skills, the time nor the desire to make more meals at home.

What Should The Industry Do

In our research, consumers provide their opinions on how the restaurant industry should respond to the coronavirus situation. The top two responses cover mitigating the spread of the virus by providing necessary employees with time off and following proper sanitation procedures. Interestingly, 37% say that restaurants should operate “business as usual.” This indicates that many consumers are satisfied that foodservice operators are as prepared as anyone to mitigate the impact of an outbreak.

Conclusions

There are some very big “unknowns” relative to what impacts the coronavirus will have on the U.S. economy overall and, specifically, to foodservice at this point. We are in the “too early to tell” phase, as the broader U.S. population had not yet become concerned with this issue until just a week or two ago, when media attention proliferated. Personal consumer and business responses could thwart an otherwise serious widespread outbreak in the U.S., which would result in social distancing and cocooning. These actions would have effects on foodservice as well.

At this juncture, it is premature for us to determine what growth-related impact COVID-19 will have on the U.S. foodservice industry and its segments, as we are still very much in the beginning stages. However, we have developed some scenarios to consider as the COVID-19 event unfolds in the U.S. Obviously, the degree of impact will be dependent upon the severity and length of the outbreak in the U.S., as well as effects on supply chain, availability of healthy staff and other far-reaching industry dynamics.

Potential for Highest Negative Impact

Full-Service Restaurant On-Premise—Consumers could potentially cocoon themselves in their homes and look for eating solutions that will not expose them to unnecessary social interactions. Eating at full-service restaurants certainly can make diners feel vulnerable and would be avoided.

Business & Industry—Many companies are implementing or considering allowing employees to work from home or remotely. Some may temporarily close offices and plants, at least temporarily.

Schools—As of the time this was written, some schools in Washington state have closed due to outbreak concerns. Although makeup days are common, a more prolonged shutdown could result in lost foodservice volume.

Colleges & Universities—This segment faces the same issue as schools, especially as many students live in close quarters. A serious outbreak could cause cancellation of an entire semester. Study trips abroad are being cancelled.

Lodging—Lodging has already been affected, with cancellations from overseas travelers. According to Tourism Economics, the U.S. will lose 1.6 million travelers from mainland China—a drop of 28% from 2019. A drop is expected from other areas as well, as both international and U.S. businesses as well as tourists are already curtailing their travel plans. In the U.S., companies are evaluating domestic travel bans until the situation becomes clearer.

Recreation—The ultimate in crowd-gathering venues, whether it’s movie theaters, stadiums, cruise lines, concerts halls, amusement parks or museums, this segment could be among the most significantly impacted. Closures, cancellations, and postponements are all being seriously contemplated. Some contingency plans include playing some sporting events in empty stadiums and arenas.

Airlines—As with other travel and leisure segments, the airlines are also feeling the heat and will be impacted as consumers reduce their travel and company travel bans are being enacted.

Potential for Positive Impact

Limited-Service Restaurants—The off-premise nature of limited service, plus the presence of drive-thrus limits human-to-human contact. Delivery-friendly segments, such as pizza, could particularly benefit.

Delivery—As consumers leave their homes less often, potential exists for proliferation of delivery orders through both third-party and self-delivery players.

Supermarket Foodservice—Consumers will still need to visit supermarkets to buy the foods they need on a fairly regular basis. They could potentially increase their purchasing of supermarket foodservice items while grocery shopping as a surrogate for restaurant meals.

Recent Press Releases

April 23, 2020
Coronavirus: Canadian Foodservice View
April 22, 2020
The Post-Pandemic Playbook
April 20, 2020
The Top 500 ranks the top chains and shares the toll that COVID-19 will take on each this year