Hybrid working is here to stay, so what will happen to food service?

There is a growing awareness that hybrid working is here to stay; if only for the next few years. The argument that all will return to how it once was is falling away as more and more accept that the landscape has changed. The reality is that life did carry on during the pandemic and business more than survived. It will all lead to inevitable change.

The discussion is now moving on from “what will the numbers be on return?” to “what will be the next chapter in food service and what new services can be developed in replace lost revenues?”

It is symbolic of discussions taking place all across the industry as so much is naturally changing. Research is showing that the customer is travelling once again in strength for sports, for arts & culture and for great events. It is only the workplace which is not seeing a return to any real strength.

It does pose the question as to what is the future of traditional food service? Has the golden era of food service now passed? Will operations seek to adjust how they manage the lower numbers attending onsite over a week?

Research is beginning to show the challenges which many food service companies have faced. Numbers are lying between 25-30% down in density and although the level of transaction is 15% up, so is inflation and cost.

Offices too will change as they become centres for:
• Client interaction
• For collaboration and team meetings
• For events and conferences

Given the above, experts are beginning to forecast a number of changes in the sector:
• Hospitality will return in strength as companies do seek to spend more time with clients
• There will be a move towards stronger investment in office design and the development of collaborative spaces
• There will be more retail focused offers appear in large offices
• A stronger emergence of delivered in services will emerge – delivered in from a CPU or delivered in via branded services
• New services to emerge and be developed.
• Stronger technological advancement to create better services.

Of course, this is still all to be seen but when we all look back at 2020-22, we may view it as a time of significant change which will have changed the face of an industry.

The counter argument is that many believe that numbers will eventually rebuild but this may take between 5-7 years. New teams will emerge. New uses. In time, numbers will return but it will take time and technology is empowering people to able to work from anywhere in the world and people are more able to manage themselves so there is less need for controlled management.