Foodservice operators have had some fairly straightforward decisions to make when it comes to conserving cash over the last 12 months, but if there is one area that causes most to think twice before wielding the axe it’s menu development.
While pub and restaurant chains clearly haven’t had vast teams of people going at it tooth and nail, it is increasingly clear that senior food development executives who weren’t placed on furlough have been encouraged to spend as much as possible in the kitchen planning for the future.
Of course, operators have significantly reduced their menu sizes throughout the pandemic — a sensible measure done largely for operational and fiscal reasons as sites reopened at limited capacity. It’s not the same as new dish creation, which operators have continued to make a priority.
For some, the focus has been on creating dishes for delivery and click and collect, while for others it’s been a case of designing menus to support future seasonal offers or drive new concepts.
There is certainly an element of soul-searching being carried out by operators at the moment as the realisation that Covid-19 has dramatically altered consumers’ expectations of foodservice sinks in.
Evidence suggests there has been a sharp increase in new concepts from hospitality firms eager to ensure they remain viable in the post-pandemic era.
Indeed, recent research from BRITA Professional backs this up, with 95% of hospitality businesses it polled agreeing that expectations have changed.
Some 88% of operators said they have used the lockdowns to reflect on their business strategy and this is being seen in their actions.
55% of hospitality and catering businesses have introduced new concepts, 48% have altered their menus and 38% have updated their equipment to improve productivity.
Hospitality has already proved its resilience during the most tumultuous year in its history and the importance of finding new ways to evolve and differentiate is patently clear to tens of thousands of operators that have reopened their doors.
Being flexible, reactive and adventurous in terms of menu development is a sure-fire way to stay fresh and relevant.
Those who invested in that even when they were at their lowest ebb could well see their faith rewarded in the months to come.