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OPINION

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Michele Young, director of Foodservice Support Ltd, shares with us her post-pandemic thoughts. ALL CHANGE We’ve all struggled with the consequences of the pandemic, and our businesses have all suffered an immense blow in terms of revenue and earnings. It certainly still feels like we have a long road ahead to recovery. Everybody was initially talking about the third phase being the ‘new normal’, but I don’t believe we’re near there yet. I’ve been supporting businesses across Europe and the Middle East, and each country is experiencing different scenarios. Some days it can be hard to imagine how anyone could ever survive this huge squeeze on our ability to trade and with big players publicly announcing store closures, job losses and CVAs, it seems like doom and gloom is all around. Can there really be potential for any positives? OPPORTUNITIES FOR SMALLER OPERATORS? Notwithstanding rent re-negotiations, cash management, staffing etc., when it comes to changing operating practices and sales building, smaller businesses can certainly take advantage and react much faster and be much more agile than some of the bigger players or chains when it comes to innovative thinking. Big cities are a lonely place right now and online shopping has swooped in and stolen share, but the ‘suburbs’ are certainly now able to see some benefit. It used to be the case that when the busy commuters headed off to the big city, some suburban locations and local shops would rely predominantly on weekend trade to achieve the bulk of their weekly sales, and that’s all 48 December 2020 www.sandwich.org.uk

been flipped on its head with working from home becoming the norm. A good proportion of these out of town locations are now seemingly thriving during the week (at least that’s the impression they give on their public platforms). During the period when food outlets were working with capacity restrictions for eating on premise, I saw quite a few smaller, independent outlets who would have otherwise not had any business, jump on the idea of adding a takeout window or doorstep set up so they could capture any passing footfall. And those that could add some extra seats outside jumped on the idea really fast. And for local, more suburban or community areas, the ‘work from home’ crowd represents a new opportunity. Just as we had the ice cream van sounding the bell in summer, I’ve started to see independent sandwich vans back on the roads - doing the rounds in residential areas and announcing their timeslots on local community social media pages! DELIVERY CHALLENGES Out in Buckinghamshire, our local council has arranged a ‘community basket’ service where all the retail shops in our little high street can pull together and offer a free delivery service to homes in different areas on certain days of the week. This means local bakers, coffee shops and cafés can take orders from the remote workers or those staying indoors and they get it delivered direct to their door, and on the Continent, there’s been a huge surge in ‘rental e-bikes’ too for small local food delivery rounds.

Michele Young is director of Foodservice Support Ltd (www. foodservicesupport.co.uk), an independent business which she set up in 2010 to offer creative and commercial solutions for growth to businesses in the food industry. An industry professional with 20 plus years in the sector both nationally and internationally, she has also been a member of the BSA Sammies Judging Panel for over 10 years. We’ve all read about the huge swerve towards home food delivery (Uber Eats, Deliveroo et al). These have indeed been a lifesaver for some, but whether they are a long-term profitable solution for the sandwich and coffee shop sector, where the average spend is typically lower, remains to be seen. It’s important to make sure that whatever options are being offered on the delivery channels, they still offer the business a good return after the commission payments are made to any third party and the additional packaging costs are taken into consideration. Moreover, it’s an absolute necessity to consider the quality aspect of anything that is being sold for delivery as not all sandwich style products are necessarily ‘delivery friendly’ anyway. The first bite of a panini or toastie is always the best, but the taste experience could be slightly different 40 minutes later, if it’s been wrapped in some form of protective covering to keep the temperature, then driven two miles to a different destination. I’m sure demand for delivery is going to serve its purpose for convenience for quite some time, but do your homework and make sure you understand the full picture in terms of commercial aspects as well as adaptations you may have to make for presentation, packaging, optimum quality and portion size.