What trends will not survive this season?
As consumers, our sincere hope and expectation is that it will survive, but there will no doubt be a slowdown in growth for the “eatertainment” category. People’s desire for socialization and a fun “experience” will be in conflict with residual fears about catching the virus, even after the quarantine is lifted. Our surveys show that consumers expect to significantly decrease attending public events, and we expect the same concern to impact the eatertainment category.
As states consider operational requirements like 6-foot distancing in restaurant dining rooms, and as subsequent waves of COVID-19 may arise down the road, it’ll be essential for the eatertainment category to adapt operations that satisfy consumer safety expectations during a non-pandemic, as well evolve their value proposition so that they can maintain relevance in the case of another shutdown.
What trends will become more important after this season?
The brands who have best survived the COVID-19 crisis are those that already had a strong digital delivery presence—pizza players like Domino’s, and quick-serves/fast casuals like Wingstop and Chipotle that already had a strong third-party delivery presence, and those with less of a dependence on dining room traffic.
As such, we believe that first-party delivery and third-party delivery partnerships will continue to be very important for restaurants, as consumers plan to keep their delivery habits in the future.
Especially with the risk of another wave of COVID-19 later in 2020 or 2021, it will be incredibly important for restaurants to adapt to the digital delivery world.
The value wars that have been waging for a few years now will no doubt continue as the economy recovers. During COVID-19, consumers have listed price/value as one of the main drivers, and this will likewise not change any time soon.
What lessons have you already learned in the midst of this crisis?
We’re living in a new “normal” now. Channels are shifting—some restaurants are morphing into grocery stores, dollar stores are capturing grocery traffic, delivery is making the world go ‘round, and the global supply chain is being seriously reexamined. In this new world there are …
1. Evolving baselines for success: Being down “just 10 percent” is now a huge win.
2. Rapidly shifting consumer needs and expectations: Contactless payment isn’t a “nice to have” but a “must.”
3. Fluctuating supply chain and staffing needs: Demand can go from 100 to zero in a day.
4. Massive variances by locale: Local governance is now a major driver of restaurant performance, requiring localized tactics.
… And we are unlikely to go back to the “old world” anytime soon, if ever.
But if this crisis has shown us anything, it is that people are incredibly resourceful. The food industry has banded together to adapt to this crisis with astonishing speed. Sense360 transformed our entire business to help partners understand and adjust to this new paradigm as fast as possible. We created new solutions like a daily food diary, we reduced the lag-time of our data to help answer questions more quickly than ever before, and we started a COVID-19 industry briefing webinars, free to the public. But we are just one of many. We see our peers in the insights industry, and our restaurant partners, innovating daily. Whether it’s the Great American Takeout, zero delivery fees, or restaurants selling toilet paper and disinfectant, everyone is doing what they can to survive and thrive. The coming months will be painful, but we will make it through together.
Olivia Watson leads the marketing efforts at Sense360, a consumer insights company that delivers 360-degree insights to Fortune 500 restaurants, retailers and CPG companies. Prior to joining Sense360, Olivia served as Head of Marketing at a legal-tech SaaS company, and also gained experience in the fashion and financial services industries. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or view her thought leadership pieces on the Sense360 blog.