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Dakota Leflaive

Account Management

I think “the new normal” is one of those phrases which is beginning to make people roll their eyes, but the fact is that things are never likely to be quite the same again especially in hospitality and, of course within the world of coffee. What, though, will be the practical effects of these changes for us all?

We all went through a lot. Restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and more closed their doors, many never to open again.

Environmental health legislation and food hygiene policies which had felt like a tiring burden at times came to seem inadequate. The wafer-thin line between survival and collapse, as businesses, individuals and families, were illuminated as even thinner than we had previously thought.

We learnt that we could fight harder to survive than we ever knew we could: finding ways to help ourselves keep going and at the same time to help each other and the communities around us.

There is still a lot of uncertainty about how much of the legislated strategies for dealing with the pandemic will remain, and for how long. It does seem likely, though, that even if they are not constantly present, elements of social distancing and mask-wearing are likely to have impact for some time to come, probably as occasional responses to swings in infection rates and to the appearances of new mutations.

How customers and colleagues feel about hygiene and health and safety procedures will be changed for a long time to come. This isn’t a completely new development: customers, and we as an industry, have become increasingly focused on these issues but there is going to be a new edge to this awareness. In many cases customers are going to become hyper-vigilant about the possibilities of cross-contamination and standards of cleanliness. We are going to have to do the same, and it will need to be visible that we are always doing our very best: uncovered food displays, tempting mounds of steaming pastries and less than completely empty washing-up areas which were sometimes necessary are going to become an uncomfortable and unacceptable prospect for many of our customers and members of our teams.

Changes in attitudes to health and hygiene won’t only be reactive. More proactive, conscious changes have been developing. During the lockdowns and across the whole pandemic there has been a lot of discussion of diet and health. This is another case in which gradual change which was already happening has simply been accelerated: we were already well-aware of the growing interest in things like alternative milks, gluten free food and vegetarian or vegan offerings. Now there appears to have been a step-change in people’s awareness of their health and the choices which they can take to look after themselves better. By becoming a part of this change rather than a barrier to it we can join our customers and help our businesses feel better and healthier too.

The progress of cashless transactions was transformed during lockdown, as much of the country moved to being cashless only. Many will return to mixed transactions but the move to cashless only has definitely accelerated and it does look like with all its simplicity at the till and at the back of house, and with the obvious hygiene advantages there will be no stopping the gradual, and possibly not so gradual, demise of cash.

The move to working from home will also have a long-term impact. It is clear that some of those who moved from office to home during the pandemic will not be returning to their offices in the same way as they did. There will be a lot of hybrid working and some people who will be working completely from home. This means that business-district and city-center hospitality may have to face the need to find different ways of working, different markets to appeal to and different patterns of trade to accommodate. This won’t necessarily be a fatal blow as in the longer term it could turn into an advantage for business.  As office space becomes unoccupied, it could either become cheaper and attract new, younger businesses, or the urbanization of city centers will continue and these spaces will become residential, bringing in more of a different kind of market with different strengths and opportunities for hospitality and coffee businesses.

We all remember coffee shops and cafes sprinkled with customers busily working away at laptops. Changes in working patterns mean that more people will be able to work out of the office. This could be seen as a two-edged sword: some businesses felt that the table-blocking caused by these people didn’t help business and during any periods of social distancing, which would limit table space, this would definitely be an issue, but equally, this could be a new income-stream to be tapped and encouraged. This will be especially so as this custom will become newly apparent in suburban settings where they had rarely been a feature previously, making them a potential new market for businesses in these areas

Those who will be able to work from home can be seen as winners in the changes made during the pandemic but there are many other people who have not been so lucky. It struck a death knell for many other businesses, and for the employment of the people who worked there. Large parts of the population will have much reduced spending power, and this will have an impact on what might be seen as luxury spending, such as speciality coffee. However, it doesn’t have to be coffee which people sacrifice: marketing it as that one special weekly treat or supporting your customer with a generous loyalty reward programme could ring-fence that piece of spending for your business.

Coffee fans who spent a lot of time at home during the pandemic were motivated to recreate their speciality coffee experience at home. This was seen in a massive increase in the sales of home espresso machines, drippers and other coffee equipment. Although it could be argued that this will permanently remove customers from coffee shops what it has also done is broaden the portion of the population which is familiar with, and appreciative of, the world of speciality coffee. Offering an environment which feeds their enthusiasm, helps educate them further and gives them a space in which to share their knowledge and enjoyment could bring new and more committed custom into the market and into your business. They would also provide a market for upselling coffee making equipment and beans.

We can’t avoid facing that what we have experienced in the last year or so is bound to have a range of long term impacts on our businesses, and that the changes aren’t necessarily going to make life easier. At the same time, though, it does look like those changes, as is often the way in business, do offer opportunities to recoup losses and maybe even to expand trade and win new custom. New can be scary, but it can be exciting too, and though normal sometimes seems boring maybe our “new normal” could turn out to exciting and successful.

Talk to the Team

We understand that getting your business back up and running will be a big change and involve a lot of planning. Get in touch with the team if you need any advice or support on the best solution for your business post Covid-19.

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