Understanding the Foodservice Industry Post COVID-19

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the foodservice industry has endured a trial by fire, and many nontraditional franchises have closed their doors forever. Others are merely hanging on by a thread. The ones that stand a chance at thriving in the post-COVID-19 foodservice industry are those that have dared to think outside the box, putting new and creative strategies in play and coming up with innovative ways to get their delicious food into customer’s hands.

Many nontraditional franchises, such as those serving college campuses, airports, and sports stadiums, have felt the squeeze in 2020 and into 2021 from COVID-19 foodservice trends. As these venues, and others like them, have seen only a trickle of traffic or been shut down altogether, the need for creative post-COVID-19 foodservice solutions for franchises has never been greater.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the face of foodservice trends for franchises, perhaps for good even post-COVID, and those franchises who have a strategic plan in place could potentially see great payoffs in the coming years. In a recent piece in QSR Magazine, “Can Nontraditional Restaurants Make a Post-COVID Comeback?” Jim Gregory, founder and CEO of OnCampus Brands notes that nontraditional franchises that can deliver a top-notch brand experience without compromising customer safety, are those that stand the greatest chance of surviving our ever-evolving times.

Many foodservice franchises are experimenting with things like storefront shelving, smartphone ordering, and contactless food delivery. Here at Firehouse Subs, we’ve continued to serve the quality of food our customers have come to expect, without putting them, or our workers, in harm’s way. In our college campus locations, we’ve experimented with new lockboxes, allowing students to order via their phones and retrieve their food with a unique code. In the coming months, we’re sure that more innovative ideas like these will become the norm, as everyone attempts to return to some semblance of post-pandemic normalcy.

However, not everything will be going back to the way it was before. Not only have many franchises shut down altogether, but the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on foodservice trends for franchises were simply the fuel on an already-smoldering fire in the foodservice world. Things were already changing, favoring less face-to-face interaction, more flexibility, and faster service. This would-be gradual shift has dramatically accelerated in the past year, leaving many brands stranded in the wake.

But it’s time that we think beyond the short-term innovations and start investing in our post-pandemic future. While the process of getting food from a franchise like Firehouse Subs may look different in the years to come, the experience of fast, delicious, convenient food isn’t going anywhere. Greg Delks, vice president of franchising at Firehouse Subs, understands the importance of investing in the long-term, even when things are uncertain, saying, “We are all about being part of communities and showing them that we are committed to them during good times and bad.”

Franchises like those of Firehouse Subs are looking ahead, finding new ways to serve customers, from college students to sports fans, when venues reopen. We’re also doubling down our support for current and potential franchisees, and even actively making bids for future locations. “We’re planting seeds today that we’ll harvest another day,” Delks says.

For the creative, adaptable, and unflappable foodservice franchises, the future will continue to look bright, no matter what post-COVID foodservice trends lie ahead for franchises.

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