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What will food service look like in the post-Covid world?

Published on : 5/28/20
  • A staggering 79% of consumers plan to avoid open, self-serve food stations once they start dining out again, according to a 2020 Datassentials report.

    This is just one example of how food service norms will need to adapt in the coming weeks and months as citizens around the world begin to emerge from the safety of their homes. As consumers experience increasing and enduring stress, they look for brands they can trust, services that will shorten their to do list and, ultimately, ways to limit their exposure and spend the time they have on the things that matter the most.

    Prior to the global pandemic, Sodexo had already begun testing out services that meet these precise needs. Here are three ways to make your diners feel more comfortable in this new Covid-19 landscape:

    1. Provide reassurance with food safety and packaging

    For most customers in the pre-covid world, cleanliness was simply assumed after a quick glance around the restaurant. Today, with an invisible threat like COVID-19, people now need clearer indicators to feel safe, such as individually packaged goods or watching how their food is prepared. In fact, 43% of consumers now say that “clean and sanitary” is their most important consideration. 

    As we navigate through this crisis, it’s clear that food service companies will need to gain consumer trust by being completely transparent about food safety and security measures. For example, Sodexo expanded Simply to Go, converting open environment salad bars into grab and go stations with a wide range of freshly-made packaged food for both breakfast and lunch. To reinforce safety with an at-a-glance touch, we added a “sealed for quality” tamper-resistant sticker to every Simply to Go dish.

    2. Offer new services in unexpected locations

    As people start to head back to the workplace they may start to experience extreme stress. This is particularly true for healthcare workers, who have been on the frontlines of the pandemic. They work long hours and put themselves at risk day in and day out. Food service providers can play an important role in helping them through these trying times. Meeting their needs, often means expanding, changing, or even temporarily eliminating services that feel risky or irrelevant. 

    Businesses around the world have been turning to take-out or delivery services ౼ not only to stay afloat during lockdown periods, but also to give worn out workers one less thing to worry about, and crucially, to reduce their exposure to the virus in public places like stores. In North America, we’ve been piloting Grocery 2Go ౼ a new program that provides grocery delivery to an unexpected place: hospitals. Now healthcare workers can place orders online and Sodexo gathers products for pickup at the end of their shift. Key Workers, Key Essentials offers a similar service in the UK.

    3. Use technology to limit exposure as much as possible

    In harder hit areas, shoppers and diners are drastically changing their behavior to reduce exposure by avoiding lines and physical contact, and that may continue as economies reopen. A few ways this is showing up in real-time are: paying with a contactless credit card instead of passing money from hand to hand, ordering ahead of time online to minimize time spent waiting in line or using other means of technology to order and pay for meals. 

    We have designed a number of technological solutions to allow these guests to “Click & Collect,” by ordering ahead of time, pay within the app, then pick up their meal from a designated area ౼ reducing time spent in public dining areas, as well as face to face interaction. Bite and SoHappy@Work, offered in certain European countries, were the result.  And, in France our partnership with FoodCheri is offering consumers additional choice with fresh, healthy and sustainable meal options and 100% contactless delivery to company sites and for those working from home.   

    These are just a few examples of how food service companies can adapt existing offers to ensure that they continue to offer great food and service, regardless of how and where it’s served. As industries ౼ and the world at large ౼ change rapidly, agile companies will rely on consumer insight to act swiftly and meet the changing needs of guests and clients. 

    See Sodexo’s retail offers, including the Bite app and more.

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