There’s no other way to put it. During 2020 and much of 2021, the food and beverage (F&B) industry took a hammering. The recovery is underway in North America and across most of Europe, but the long-term effects of the shutdown remain, and new outbreaks could disrupt that recovery.
During the height of the emergency, many restaurants and food outlets adapted to the challenge and embraced deliveries to make ends meet.
As history has repeatedly shown, crises have a habit of triggering a splurge of innovation and technological advancement. The Covid-19 pandemic is no different. With billions of people worldwide facing restrictions of some sort, companies of all shapes and sizes had to adapt to survive.
However, as we emerge from the crisis period, the next challenge is to use innovation and technology to thrive. While we cannot predict exactly what the future holds, F&B businesses need to be prepared for the digital era.
How Digital Solutions Drive F&B Businesses
The bottom line is people will always need food, and during our socially distanced times, food has been a source of great comfort. The one thing that will never disappear is demand, so there will always be an opportunity for sales.
The key is to make your products as accessible as possible, using the latest delivery platforms, order processing systems, and other types of cloud-based management software. Whatever type of F&B business you have - a restaurant, distributor, or e-commerce, there are specialized solutions designed to optimize your operations.
For instance, DiCentral provides advanced EDI solutions for distributors and retailers, bringing together the different processes needed to support the supply chain and order fulfillment. For restaurant chains, EDI software can be a critical asset in managing stock across multiple locations.
These solutions are continually evolving and being updated to support businesses to fully embrace the digital era.
By embracing technology with an open and proactive mindset, you will be able to take your F&B business to the next level in terms of accessibility, operations, and, ultimately, quality of service. The trick is to take an integrated approach and bring the different software and platforms into sync.
Covid-19 has Sparked Innovation
As we touched on briefly, there’s little doubt the Covid-19 pandemic has forced many F&B businesses to innovate on a scale unmatched in modern history. Aside from the obvious changes, with an increase in home deliveries, grocery stores managing peaks and troughs in demand (toilet paper anyone), and managing restaurants in the era of social distancing - there are also broader consumer trends to consider.
The fact that millions of us have had to work from home, and even in recovery, many of us are expected to continue to do so. A Mckinsey & Co. study anticipates that between 20-25% of the workforce in the advanced economies will work from home for 3-5 days a week.
These changes in behavior and the concerns surrounding Covid-19 dramatically impact the way we eat food. People are having breakfast later, eating healthier, and wanting more for their in-home dining experience.
In order to respond to these changes quickly and effectively, you need technology to deliver the data and insight.
For example, order fulfillment software can be utilized to identify evolving consumer behavior in real-time. Spotting emerging trends and buying patterns early can help you pivot your business at the right time to meet any changes in demand.
One such trend that has come about in the pandemic is restaurants delivering meal kits for people to cook at home. And while the demand may be less intense than during the height of the crisis, it is a trend that will continue.
The trick is to understand what your customers are looking for and to deliver the products they want.
API Integration: The Glue that Brings Tech Together
The blend of developing a digital-friendly culture, genuinely understanding your consumer, and using the right technology takes a strategic approach. Your whole business needs to buy into the idea of investing in technology and using insight from data to support the delivery of great products.
In order to implement the changes required to support innovation, it is critical to integrate the different platforms and software across your business. Managing these systems with varying sources of information and multiple data formats can prove to be a formidable challenge.
APIs can do the job of managing the huge volume of data generated within your business and prevent your systems from being overloaded. It works by filtering the data before it gets into the main software, only allowing the information it needs to facilitate its purpose.
For instance, stock control systems have a different purpose to order fulfillment software, but there is some overlap in the information it requires.
What APIs do is ensure the stock control system gets key details like the number of products in stock, replenishment alerts, and so on but also makes sure that information does not end up in the order fulfillment software - which would risk clogging up operations and causing delivery delays.
With Universal Adapter, you can take integration to the next level by managing all your APIs on one platform, giving you a complete picture of business operations.
In doing so, you will be able to harness the full power of consumer insights, behavioral trends, and technology to revitalize your F&B business in the digital era.