As operators come to terms with challenging market conditions and changed consumer behaviours, how can suppliers best help in 2021? CGA’s client director Fiona Speakman set out major pandemic-related trends that could last long beyond lockdown in a webinar this week for events company Montgomery Group, and highlighted some of the key areas for support. Here are five of the focal points.
1 Staff engagement
CGA’s research has consistently flagged up the importance of keeping staff engaged and motivated over lockdown. Nine in ten (91%) business leaders told the Business Confidence Survey that they have increased their frequency of communication with staff during the pandemic, and many have stepped up their levels of wellbeing support (79%) and training and professional development (39%) too.
That staff engagement is absolutely crucial in making sure that the offer the consumer gets at the end of the day is on point,” Speakman said. Suppliers and wholesalers can help by providing information, training and products that make it easier for staff to do their jobs. “Being a trusted advisor to operators is going to be really important.”
Food and drink deliveries soared during lockdowns in 2020, and CGA’s Coffer Peach Business Tracker shows they rose from under 6% of managed groups’ weekly sales at the start of the year to above 23% by the end. Interest in delivery will endure, especially among those who remain hesitant about going out in 2021, Speakman said. “It’s definitely here to stay… it’s become an engrained habit.” The logistics of delivery can be difficult though, and suppliers have a role to play in optimising products and packaging so that people get consistently high quality. “One bad experience in delivery can really impact a consumer’s perception of a brand—and brand equity is so important at this time.”
Lockdowns have led many people to work from home, and to stay close by when they shop and eat and drink out—and CGA’s BrandTrack survey suggests nearly a third (30%) will be visiting local venues for the foreseeable future. “Consumers want to give their support to local businesses,” Speakman said. “For suppliers and wholesalers, ensuring you have the right range of products and flexibility to adapt to suit local requirements is going to be essential to stand out from the competition.”
With safety concerns sure to be crucial for many months to come, operators and suppliers can collaborate to give consumers the confidence to go out. “While experience is important, safety is still absolutely paramount, and that messaging has to be absolutely clear… businesses should be working together to put plans in place to make environments as reassuring as possible.” The focus on wellbeing has also led more people to opt for healthy options when eating and drinking out, and suppliers can help with menu planning and innovation too. “People will still want indulgence… but that healthy factor is here to stay,” Speakman said.
Positive signs for the market come from CGA’s research in Australia and China, which shows that consumers will return quickly to venues when they are able to. Pent-up demand from consumers means businesses remain optimistic about long-term prospects, and before the current lockdown sizeable numbers said they planned to open new sites (44%) and recruit new staff (57%) in 2021. ”It’s a mixed picture, but it’s not all negative,” said Speakman. As they plan for careful growth, operators will value any market insights and advice that suppliers can provide.