It has been a case of a story of two halves for business owners within Dublin’s food sector. Food producers who were supplying the supermarket sector have enjoyed somewhat of a boom, as customers flocked to supermarkets to stock up. At times, supermarkets were showing up to 40% growth which stabilized around a 20% increase. Food producers in categories of demand within these supermarkets have traded well.
Foodservice operators, like cafes and restaurants, on the other hand, or Dublin food producers supplying into the foodservice sector, have been badly hit. Many of these latter groups have had no revenue for the last three months.
Some cafes and restaurants have devised innovative click and collect schemes, or delivery options, which saw them retain around 50% of their revenue. Others adapted to provide delivery of home food kits, where the consumer does the cooking. Bujo in Dublin 4 is an excellent example of an early mover in this space.
Food producers have also been busy innovating. When dessert and cake expert Robert Bullock, of Le Patissier, found himself with no business and no staff, he quickly pivoted the company to become a food delivery business, supplying exquisite cakes. The good news is that Robert now has reemployed 50% of his staff, and is delivering directly to over 400 homes in Dublin weekly.
Those in the foodservice sector are reopening their cafes and restaurants to sit down business while complying with the new guidelines. The key pieces of advice right now are:
- Consumers will need lots of reassurance about safety procedures, so that is the priority. Business owners should sign up to Fáilte Ireland’s COVID-19 Safety Charter.
- Many operators have decided to return with a scaled-down menu to make it easier to operate in the short term.
- Some foodservice operators have also moved to a bookings only model to make the process a little more streamlined, at least for now.
Advice to food producers, especially those supplying into the foodservice sector covers several headings:
- Many of these producers are expanding their retail presence to compensate for a slowdown in foodservice orders.
- Producers also need to be mindful of helping cafes and restaurants by doing more of the preparation in their premises, to help kitchens under pressure with social distancing and less staff.
- The growth in consumer interest in buying directly from producers necessitates all producers to give this serious consideration.