A majority of my peers are cautiously optimistic about when the food-away-from-home channel will recover – one to two years. Realistically there are the “unknown unknowns.” Consequently, I believe it will take longer given the industry needs to analyze the interconnectivity impact.
I first addressed the Interconnectivity Impact back in July of 2020. My assertion was
Industry analysts to better understand when the food away-from-home channel was going to rebound needed to factor in the interconnectivity impact from other areas of economic recovery. Some of these areas will require more time, thus industry analysts need to temper their bullish timelines of one to two years. I thought this be a good time to update the interconnectivity impact.
Travel & Tourism – The short-term revival of the restaurant industry has begun as dining restrictions have been lifted thanks to the increase percentage of the population vaccinated. This increase in volume can also be attributed to higher summer travel and tourism. Historically, the Restaurant Association’s research indicates, 1 out of every 4 sales dollars during the summer months in the industry can be credited to travel and tourism. However, the current surge and advance of the Delta variant might impede the restaurant industry’s recovery as some states are beginning to mandate a new set of restrictions. Travel analysts believe long-term the rebirth of tourism will take time depending on the return of corporate and international travel.
Hybrid Work Models – As offices begin to reopen and implement hybrid work models where some people continue to work remotely (full or part time), food & beverage sales will be diminished, especially lunch which before the pandemic was the number one restaurant daypart meal.
Higher Education – Updated figures from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) revealed that overall college enrollment fell to 16.9 million students last spring, a 3.5% decline versus the prior year. According to the NSCRC this was the largest spring semester enrollment decrease (600,000 students, primarily undergraduate) since 2011. Will enrollment continue to decline as college & universities start opening their doors and are trying to establish safety protocols, specifically as they implement vaccination mandates? Some are beginning to offer incentives like free parking to increase vaccination rates. Bottomline: it appears the overall population size of campuses across America will shrink, resulting in less food & beverage sales.
Reduced Labor Pool – Some foodservice operators are counting on the current staff shortages they are experiencing limiting their ability to properly service their seating capacities to be short-term. Unfortunately, the word is out, working in foodservice is not worth the “juice for the squeeze” – wages, hours, safety. In addition, especially in densely populated metro areas there has been a shift in population – individuals who worked part time to chase their dreams because their metro cost of living was prohibitive. Long-term those foodservice workers still working to cover the labor shortage might burnout, thus drop out.