New research from Credit Suisse found that limited-service chains are charging an average of 20 percent more for third-party delivery. At a time when restaurant operators are especially cognisant of the limits of what consumers are willing to spend, that figure could well be over the line. While it’s no surprise that delivery costs would surge amid steeply increasing costs for gasoline, along with other items needed to run a business, it means restaurant operators will, yet again, need to be creative about getting food to consumers. After all, the same surging fuel costs that are increasing delivery prices could also keep consumers off the roads. Is there an area of your business that might help you better manage rising costs – or make an off-premise meal more worthwhile? This is all happening at a time when people are especially eager to gather – and are finally feeling a bit safer in doing that – so could you focus on catering for offices that are bringing their employees back together more regularly, or for weekend picnics now that the weather is getting nicer? Could you participate in food festivals or bring a food truck to office parks or city centers where you have a steady stream of traffic on foot? Could you organize a single drop-off of food orders for companies with large numbers of employees onsite? Consumers are still eager to have restaurant food. The economic situation being exacerbated by the war in Ukraine just means restaurant operators will have to use their ability (well-honed during the pandemic) to quickly adapt to new challenges.
Not so long ago, a food truck was often perceived as a potential means for a fledgling restaurant concept to develop a following with the public before launching a brick-and-mortar location, or for a smaller independent restaurant to spread its brand awareness. Now, established brick-and-mortar brands are looking to food trucks as a way of modernizing to suit the constraints of the Covid era. Take Au Bon Pain. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that Tabbassum Mumtaz, the CEO of Ampax Brands, which is the new franchisor of the Au Bon Pain bakery and café brand, considers food trucks – along with ghost kitchens – to be important tools that the brand can use to modernize itself. Research from IBISWorld found that from 2016-2021, the food truck industry has grown at an annualized rate of 7.5 percent, surpassing the growth of the broader foodservice sector. To be sure, food trucks have their disadvantages – at the time of this writing, most small, independently owned food trucks weren’t eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loans. However, they do offer a key advantage – namely flexibility – that happens to suit the current times extremely well. While the pandemic has decreased demand for food truck business in office parks, it has increased opportunities for it in residential neighborhoods, hospital and grocery store parking lots, and highway rest stops.