The Industry Update has become a Dot Foods tradition. Presented every year by our CEO at our Innovations trade show, the Industry Update shares the state of the food and beverage industry as well as Dot’s recent developments.
But this year’s update sounded different from years past. CEO Joe Tracy didn’t shy away from sharing the hardships of this past year, including the impact on Dot’s business. From the jump, Tracy addressed the toll that COVID-19 took on everyone: “COVID didn’t start at a specific time or a specific day … It’s fluid, it evolved. It’s like a virus because it is. It really impacted all of us.”
Under the strange circumstances of the pandemic, however, different technologies and strategies emerged as solutions to drive business forward across multiple segments of the food and beverage industry. We’ll recap just a few of the industry challenges and opportunities covered in Joe Tracy’s Industry Update.
The labor shortage was a common theme throughout this year’s show. As Tracy put it, “The big barrier to recovery is labor. It’s not just independent restaurants; it’s big national chains as well.”
With disposable personal income at an all-time high and savings at a forty-year high, consumers have money to spend, and that’s resulted in pent-up demand for the foodservice industry. However, the workforce hasn’t returned to help meet demand. COVID-19 concerns, more retirements, childcare, stimulus checks, and unemployment benefits are still keeping many people at home.
Restaurants will need to raise wages to attract and retain employees. The good news, according to Tracy, is that foodservice employment is expected to grow in the coming years, but restaurants should prepare to employ less young people and more workers 65 and older.
A shortage of truck drivers has been a common theme at Innovations for the past few shows, but the pandemic accelerated the issue. The trucking industry is losing young drivers, and more drivers are interested in becoming owner operators. Tracy predicts that high insurance rates will also take a toll on the transportation business in the coming years.
Labor shortages, pent-up demand, and higher costs have already impacted consumer experience, but advancements in technology offer a path forward. “Foodservice needs to embrace technology,” advised Tracy.
The pandemic transformed how people order food. Consumers want to use their mobile devices. Taking advantage of mobile technology will help restaurants reduce the need for labor. On the grocery side, click and collect business has boomed.
When it comes to automation, Tracy is looking to restaurant chains to lead the way in foodservice. Independent restaurants lack the capital to make significant investments in automation, but chains can take the first steps to explore the technology to reduce labor, speed up service, and improve consumer experience.
The food and beverage industry benefited the most from ecommerce and delivery services this past year. Still, food and beverage only make up a small segment of ecommerce. Tracy identifies ecommerce as another avenue for future industry growth.
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