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October 29, 2020

When Will We Get Back to Normal?

Tony Treadway

When Will We Get Back to Normal?

In Many Ways, Never. But There Is Some Good News.

For every business owner and consumer, the question of when will America get back to normal crosses your mind at least once a day. As we look toward next year, full recovery is becoming harder to imagine, and we likely will never return to what we remember as “normal”. Let’s share some insights into the dawning new day for retailers and tourism that we are following and how lemons can become lemonade.

What About Dining & Shopping?

Consumer habits have drastically changed due to the pandemic. Intermittent spikes in outbreaks of COVID and uneven state responses to the spikes means that at least 40% of consumers still are avoiding dine-in experiences at restaurants as of October 2020. The National Restaurant Association predicts that at least 100,000 restaurants to close permanently because of the pandemic. Because working remotely and distance learning for schools means that the breakfast and lunch dayparts will never return to pre-pandemic levels.

As for shopping habits, consumers are planning their trips to store more (preparing a shopping list to go grocery shopping is up from 13% of consumers to 93%). Overall, mass merchants such as Walmart and club stores are benefiting because consumers are consolidating their trips and mass merchants offer more variety. But the time spent inside the store is down by 3%. Within supermarkets, a typical shopper’s grocery cart ring is up 16% and mass merchant rings are up 9% according to data from sense 360. To avoid crowding at checkout lines look for apps that will allow the shopper to scan their items and pay direct from their cart.

The Good News.

Led by the fast food segment, restaurant building design is changing to multiple drive thrus and walk-up windows for outdoor dining. Curbside delivery for casual restaurants and supermarkets will increase by nearly 10% in 2021 and mobile apps for pre-ordering and check-out will become the new norm. If you are a food company, now is a great time to launch a new product as consumers are bored with the norm, just make sure you have a strong digital plan to get the word out to potential customers while they are making their list.

Shoppers are making fewer trips but spending more time in their car when they do go out to pick up what they need. For restaurants and brick and mortar retailers, your chance for a shopper’s visit is the cleanliness and safety of your environment, how well stocked are the shelves and speed of service.

Peak shopping days will change from weekends to Mondays and Tuesdays are a change since remote workers will look to days with fewer shopper pose a lesser risk of contamination, turning the traditional slowest shopping days of the week into ones with busy traffic.

When Will Travel Return?

Much of the travel economy is driven by business and trade events. Projections by Travel Economics, a travel industry data firm, say true “normal” in business and leisure travel won’t arrive until 2023. Some short trip domestic and leisure travel started back in the summer of this year and some small group meetings are predicted to begin to ramp up in Q1 2021 and larger trade events in Q3 of next year.

However, the day-to-day hum of business travel for client meetings across the country may never return to a pre-pandemic “normal”. This will impact business hotels, airlines, and car rentals forever. Virtual meetings will remain as the new normal and typical business travel for client engagement may be reduced by 30–50% even when a pandemic is no longer a concern.

The Good News.

Expect fewer big trade events and more smaller group meeting with both a virtual and an in-person component. The new normal means opportunities for smaller cities and venues with more overall regional events than the previous norm. Look for attendees to drive rather than fly. Convention and visitor bureaus will identify new, smaller, specials interest groups for conferences and tours relevant to their interests.

The move toward smaller group events will support restaurants in these markets as we as off-site outdoor venues as smaller groups can more easily schedule group activities away from a trade show floor.

Transitioning for Opportunities.

Food manufacturers and tourism organizations will need to be nimbler in their approach in the new normal. They must become better at finding new product opportunities and bringing them to market more quickly and at a lower cost in development than prior to COVID.

That is why Creative Energy has formed an alliance within the food sector to meet the need. Rather than offering only agency services, Creative Energy now offers new product development within the food sector as well as virtual food demonstrations through what we call the Flavor Alliance. The new partnership also offers sales channel strategies and training for a rapid and affordable 360-degree approach to winning in the new normal.

If you would like a free assessment for ramping up your company’s approach to either foodservice, retail or e-commerce, we will be happy to schedule a session.