Another Foodie Friday in the midst of the pandemic. For me, it’s impossible to think about food on Friday without thinking of some of my friends in the food business who have been adversely impacted over the last six months. Heck, for my friend Craig who runs our favorite watering hole, the loss of our weekly bar bill alone is significant!
Here in North Carolina, restaurants, foodservice, and lodging is a $23.5 billion industry. More than 482,300 people are employed in the foodservice industry in the state – about 11 percent of the state’s workforce. When the governor shut bars and restaurants down, the impact was felt by those of us who couldn’t drink or dine out but that was nothing like how it hit those who provided that food and drink. I’m sure the situation is comparable to where you live.
Restaurants are back open here, albeit with reduced capacity. Bars are too although many of them are only serving outside. It’s better for the proprietors and staff but some of the jobs haven’t come back and many restaurants have closed up for good.
You wouldn’t think this would be a great time to look at opening a food business, would you? Well, you’d be wrong. As reported by QSR:
Quick-service chains had recovered to just a 13 percent decline year-over-year. Certain counter-service franchises have recently even reported positive year-over-year sales during the pandemic. After experiencing an initial hit on sales, A&W Restaurants announced sales were up by double digits, Papa Johns has noted a 24 percent increase in North American sales and Popeyes has boasted that sales are up by the “very high 20s” percent.
In other words, even in one of the worst-hit industries in the midst of a horrible economic time, there are opportunities. Would I invest in a full-service sit-down restaurant? Of course not. But if the business was predicated on carryout and was part of a franchise system, I very much might. I say that because franchise organizations have the infrastructure in place to help the system survive. A good franchisor can develop and implement systems – online ordering, contactless delivery, etc. – that give franchisees the ability to cope with the challenges. As an individual restaurant or any business, that’s more difficult and often requires capital that the individual unit might not have.
It’s something to think about even if you have no interest in owning a food business. Many other business sectors such as hair and nail salons, gyms, travel businesses, after-school programs have been hit hard over the last six months and yet I’m aware of dozens of franchise brands in these sectors that have modified how they do business. Their franchisees are doing well despite the pandemic. Going it alone is hard even in good times. Working as part of a proven system is especially valuable in bad times.
The ability to adapt is key for any business and never more so than now, don’t you think? Even in a crisis, there is an opportunity! And if you’re interested in learning more about franchise opportunities, you can reach me here.
Filed under food, Franchises
School is starting this week in many places. Here in North Carolina, counties have a few different options with respect to virtual learning versus in-person learning versus a combination of the two. My county has elected virtual learning to start, as have many other counties around here. Many of the local universities have elected to bring the kids back to campus for in-person education and it’s not going well. So badly, in fact, that they’ve had to curtail classroom work completely while they rethink the situation.
Rethinking is what many educators are doing these days, as are many businesspeople. I find that to be a silver lining in the midst of this horrible pandemic. What strikes me is that much of this same rethinking has been going on for quite some time but it’s taken the pandemic to bring about the changes. Online education isn’t new and it’s been possible to get degrees from accredited schools for years. Shifting public school education to the online environment is new, however. I know there are a lot of reasons why it hasn’t happened until now – teacher unions, the need for working parents to have “daycare” for their kids, food insecurity (kids get fed at school), and many other reasons. The pandemic – a situation in which people are losing their lives – has forced those other reasons to the background. I think education and our communities will come out of this stronger and more accessible as the issues that prevented the evolution of education are handled from a new perspective.
Think about the film industry. There has been a major disruption in the business and I think much of the disruption is permanent. Theaters are closing and the major chains are in deep financial trouble. Major studios’ investments are tied up in films that should have been released months ago. Everyone is still watching movies, but they’re streaming them. Is this new? Of course not, but having the powers that be in the film industry take a look at how they do business is directly attributable to the pandemic.
The most significant change in the entire industry occurred late in July when AMC Theaters and Universal agreed to shorten the theatrical ‘window’ (the length of time that a movie has to play in a theater). Previously, it was 90 days. Obviously, studios will keep their biggest blockbusters in theaters as long as they’re attracting customers. But now, Universal can transfer its less-lucrative films to rental platforms, like iTunes or Amazon, after 17 days. Other studios, like Warner Brothers, are moving some of its titles to digital-only exclusives, while Paramount and Sony are selling off a portion of their movies directly to Netflix and Amazon.
Disney is releasing their live-action “Mulan” via Disney+. You’ll pay $30 to watch it but if you’d have been taken the family to the theater to see it, that’s a bargain, especially since you can re-watch it as often as you like. How much money this generates (“Mulan” was projected to bring in more than $1 billion at the box-office) will be fascinating. There isn’t much doubt in my mind, however, that making films more accessible and less expensive is a silver lining.
Those are just two areas where I find silver linings. You?
Foodie Friday and it’s time to plan out the weekend. I’ve got some friends arriving during the week and they’ve already asked for some very specific things to eat. Not because they’re picky eaters but because I’ve served them before and they seem to consider these things as signature dishes of mine.
If you watch “Beat Bobby Flay” on the Food Network, the heart of the competition is when a chef names his or her signature dish and competes against Bobby who tries to improve on the chef’s version. Sometimes Bobby does just that, usually by making it his own. He’ll add some different spices or honey. He’ll plate it more attractively or top it with a relish that brings out the dish’s flavor. When you think about it, Bobby is altering the chef’s signature to make it HIS signature. It’s not forgery; it’s uniquely his.
That’s something each of us should be asking ourselves about our own business. First, what’s MY signature dish? What do I make in a way that is truly mine? No chef walks on Bobby’s show and announces some dish that the chef has made up. It’s always something standard – bouillabaisse, green chicken curry, veggie burgers, or any one of hundreds of things you can find on many menus. The chef is known for cooking it in their own unique way. What are you known for that may be done by others but not as well or as uniquely as you?
If you can’t really answer the question, that might be something you want to spend some time and develop. When you’re basically a commodity, you have very little room to compete on anything but price. If market demand is overwhelmingly high, you’re fine. When it’s not, you’re in trouble.
Your signature dish is you. It represents your style and identity. It becomes a part of how others see you. If your business doesn’t have one, you need to get in the proverbial kitchen and get to work developing one. Sooner rather than later, please!