Humans are creatures of habit. Most of us were accustomed to leaving our homes for work. Earning money involved an endless commute, dealing with gossip and office politics, and working with people we like and dislike.
However, the pandemic and the crisis surrounding it have brought to light the inefficiencies of a typical 9-to-5 work day. A year into the pandemic and reports suggest many of us work longer hours working from home–many have struggled to strike a balance between work and personal time when both are conducted under the same roof. In the process though, both employers and employees have come to realize that substantial savings can be achieved thanks to modern technology.
Virtual meetings and virtual conferences are commonplace, but they will not get people to eat together or grab a coffee while chatting about work. Some conferences are starting to send food and samples to participants at their homes so the experience can be synchronized between many addressees. Whether it is about sampling new food, or offering a full meal delivered at the exact same time to meeting participants, the food service industry is more capable of supporting these types of events and meetings than before the pandemic.
Nothing will replace face-to-face meetings and conferences, obviously, and they will come back. But for cash-strapped organizations, or companies that cannot afford lavish hotels and restaurants, the technologies that are being developed today can help to get their feet through valuable doors, and the food service industry, catering, casual or fine dining players can be part of this new trend. Trying new products without the distraction that hyper-socialization brings along at events can get potential customers to pay more attention. The Reddit and Gamestop situation points to how democratized information can change market conditions swiftly, regardless of how much capacity an organization has. It is just a new world out there.
Work flexibility is slowly becoming a thing. The “flex” option will allow employees to come into the office up to three days per week. An increasing number of companies are committing to getting employees to work from home, most of the time while visiting the workplace from time to time. Salesforce in the U.S., which employs approximately 50,000 is the latest company to do so. The financial case for employers is just too strong for them to overlook opportunities WFH (Work-from-home) or WFA (Work-from-away) can provide. Employers need to figure out how to foster social capital, and food service can certainly support our workforce in transition.
The four-day work week is also being considered by a growing number of employers. A Harris Poll suggested 82% of employees would consider working more hours over four days instead of working fewer over five. Respondents felt it would make them more productive. Right now, traffic at grocery stores increases by 25% to 30% on Saturdays and Sundays, essentially because most of us only have the weekend to shop for food. Few enjoy grocery shopping on weekends, let’s face it, especially these days. Beyond the long waiting lines at the cashier, by Sunday afternoon, the sight of empty shelves is not that uncommon. It is likely in-store merchandizing and traffic management practices could improve our grocery experience.
Online shopping is also likely to expand its footprint. About 1.7% of all the food purchased before COVID-19 was purchased online. Now, it is almost 4%. This also provides opportunities for companies to redefine their relationship with consumers, regardless of their roles within the supply chain. Processors, start-ups, farmers’ markets, even farmers, all have a link to consumers now without spending millions in marketing, thanks to COVID. More choice for consumers, more opportunities for any food players out there.
So, if the 9-to-5 workday ends, good riddance. The food industry can only benefit over time.