Source: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
“Restrictions and social distancing during the last few waves of COVID-19 have significantly affected the foodservice sector,” says Jeewani Fernando, provincial consumer market analyst with Alberta Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development. “While the past couple of years have been very challenging to the foodservice industry, it has also brought about many opportunities, positive changes and challenged the foodservice industry to look at things differently. Understanding key trends across foodservice segments may help industry participants to fine-tune their business strategies and plan their recovery.”
The pandemic affected thousands of foodservice manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, restaurants and bars and employees. In April 2020, foodservice sales plummeted to their lowest levels in more than 2 decades and sales have been very volatile since then.
Major easing of restrictions and other measures in mid-2021 helped to increase sales close to pre-pandemic levels. However, as of January 2022, sales remained below pre-pandemic levels in Canada as well as in Alberta.
“Many restaurant operators introduced changes to survive their foodservice operation during the pandemic. They focused heavily on cost cutting which included changing hours of operations, streamlining menus and reducing other operating expenses.”
Many owners launched new takeout and delivery options, promoted themselves on social media and implemented online ordering through restaurant websites and apps. Some unconventional changes included the introduction of meal kits, and offering grocery items at foodservice establishments such as meat, dairy, produce, bread, pasta and sauce.
“New concepts, new technologies, new ways of doing business and new consumer behaviours all result in a foodservice landscape that looks very different than it did in 2019,” says Fernando. “This evolution is not over yet, and the market will continue to shift. This will create new opportunities for some companies, return the old opportunities for others, and challenge still others to change things up entirely.”