3 Ways the Pandemic Changed the Food Industry Forever

When you think of industry disruptions, the food industry is not one that might have come to mind prior to the pandemic. However, with a virus that has affected people worldwide and forced restaurants to close down — either temporarily or permanently — food delivery services changed the way people ate.

As restaurants have dealt with lockdowns, mask mandates, and staff shortages, food delivery providers like Bolt Food, Wolt, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and others stepped in to offer a lifeline to both restaurateurs and patrons. Below, we look at three ways the pandemic changed the food industry forever — and why it’s important to get on board with the trend in order to keep your restaurant growing.

1. A Seismic Shift in Eating Habits

Along with the pandemic came the shift to remote work for people around the globe. As such, restaurants were facing not only the challenges presented by the pandemic, but also a change in dining habits. Many people opted for the convenience of staying at home, either at their desk or on their sofa, over dining inside a restaurant, waiting in lines, or wearing a mask.

Millennial consumers, in particular, are contributing to the growth in online food ordering, with more spending power and remote work than generations past. They tend to buy prepared food more often than other generations, happily tapping on their favorite food delivery app with the knowledge that it means a hot meal will greet them on their front stoop.

2. Increased Use of Technology

ClickZ reports that an estimated 69% of consumers order food online through their smartphone or tablet, according to a study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Viggle. Users turn to their mobile device to look up restaurant locations, menus, and patrons’ reviews, the study found.

Indeed, the European online food delivery market is projected to reach US$66.2 billion by 2027, up from $36 billion in 2021, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

With the ability to tie rewards into users’ purchases via POS purchases, restaurants have an opportunity to attract loyal customers. Restaurants can therefore tap into a market that’s eager to simplify their lives through technology — and maybe earn a free dessert or two while they’re at it.

3. The Desire for Contactless Dining

For some people, the desire to order food for delivery stems from their desire to stay out of harm’s way. The popularity of "contactless" delivery services and online ordering surged during 2020 as people sought new ways to enjoy their favorite meals without putting themselves at risk for infection.

Restaurants that previously relied on in-person dining changed their entire business models — moving their seating outdoors, turning themselves into grocery stores, and, yes, offering food delivery. The addition of convenience stores, supermarkets, and even pet products to the mix has turned food delivery apps into all-in-one solutions for everyday needs — including those late-night ice cream cravings.

Food Delivery Is Here to Stay

The food industry changed more dramatically than most during the pandemic. Not only did it have to adapt to major new safety and sanitation standards, but it also had to pivot its entire business model toward delivery and takeout services, virtually overnight. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to stay agile, be willing to pivot, and don’t be afraid to offer a free dessert or two.

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