You wouldn’t think many sectors experienced a ‘good coronavirus’, but there have been some beneficiaries of this unprecedented crisis, writes Lucy Hatherell. Online food and delivery platforms experienced rapid growth, taking advantage of consumers going digital; witness the success of HelloFresh, which saw its active users increase by almost 70% in the first quarter of the year.
We’ve seen countless success stories of entrepreneurial firms which have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to respond to new consumer habits and build a business.
Changing consumer habits
Consumers have become increasingly accustomed to ordering food and drink online, and now with platforms making it easier than ever before, it’s surely set to continue. Studies have shown that many of the habits formed during lockdown are expected to remain long-term, along with a growing demand for restaurant-quality food experienced from the comfort of home.
The pandemic has forced consumers to think again about cooking at home; those that would never cook a dish from scratch are experimenting and have the ability to do so through platforms such as Great Food 2U, Hellofresh and Gusto.
Great Food 2U was founded during lockdown. The team behind it noticed a gap in the market and quickly launched a meal kit platform, allowing operators to continue trading and delivering restaurant meals to consumers to cook at home. The platform was initially launched with London-based street food brands from the likes of Mother Clucker and Bleecker Burger and since has experienced rapid expansion – now offering a wide range of cuisines including DIY pizzas from Homeslice, Indian cuisine from Gunpowder and award-winning vegan curries from Spice Box.
Another success story from lockdown is mypubshop, launched by StarStock, an e-commere technology platform which gave publicans nationwide the ability to turn their venues into an online shop, selling essential household grocery items and takeaway meals. Over 500 pubs signed up to the platform, helping local communities to stay connected by providing an essential service and reinforcing their role as social hubs.
With the threat of further restrictions hanging over the sector, operators must increasingly consider what will keep consumers engaged through a strong USP combined with a slick consumer experience to stay relevant. Accessibility and ease of purchase is now central to success. We’re beginning to see the rise of the subscription model such as the new YourPret Barista coffee scheme which launched to great acclaim. Those operators who offer a multi-channel approach as well as a great in-venue experience will be those best placed to keep customers engaged and emerge the strongest from the pandemic.
Despite the hospitality industry enduring a tough time throughout the last six months, new consumer habits have formed, aiding the development of start-ups who recognise this new behaviour as a commercial opportunity. It will be fascinating to see how this develops in the future.