In a virtual roundtable discussion, consultants from the three FCSI regions discuss the impact of Covid-19 on foodservice and how the future might look
On 14 May 2020, FCSI’s Foodservice Consultant magazine hosted a roundtable discussion with FCSI Professional members from three regions.
The consultant roundtable discussion, sponsored by Hoshizaki America, was great opportunity hear about the experiences of consultants and operators who are all at different stages of working through the Covid-19 challenges.
Foodservice Consultant editor Tina Nielsen was joined by Alexander Hofer FCSI, dialling in from South Tyrol in Italy, while Brandon Kua FCSI connected from Malaysia and Joseph Schumaker FCSI joined from the US.
The three shared their experiences of working through the Covid-19 crisis, how it has affected the industry in their respective countries and how they are helping colleagues and clients to pull through a difficult time that will have an impact beyond the foodservice sector as tourism is hit and unemployment numbers increase.
You can watch the video below:
Having been part of the first wave of countries hit by Covid-19, Kua said Malaysia is coming through to the other side. “Our government has been very cautious in its approach– here in Malaysia we have been on lockdown since 18 March and the curve has been flattened, no business allowed for at least one month. We have a strict protocol people adhere to.”
Kua shared what is most likely a glimpse of the future for Europe and the US. People are allowed out of their houses and if they wish to visit a restaurant they will need to provide their address and contact details for tracing purposes. Safety requirements mean temperature checks are implemented at the door and tables are spaced two metres apart.
The consultant’s role
With different regions at different levels of recovery, for some it may be premature to talk about the future. Schumaker said right now is the time for foodservice consultants to start putting together a strategy. “We need to build a plan right now – based on the situation we have, we know there will be social distancing, we know there will be an increased hygiene level required and we know self-service buffets won’t open right away,” he said. “We can start preparing that right now and help individual operators start to write their specific plan for their place.”
Part of the consultant’s job in a difficult situation such as this is to keep calm and reassure. Hofer said helping clients and the industry to adjust to extraordinary measures for a time, is important.
“People in the industry is worried about making people wear masks, but why?” he asked. “To have the mask on at the moment is normal people for now. Why can’t guests wear a mask to a buffet right now? It solves all your problems. It might not seem like a vacation but right now that is what a vacation is like.”
During the discussion the three talked about how specific market segments have been affected by Covid-19 – from ghost kitchens, where there has been a rare boom during the pandemic to self-service buffets where uncertainty about how these will have to change.
They agreed that this period of stand-still has given all a period of reflection, a time to speak with customers and to consider why we do what we do. This includes a chance to develop closer relationships with customers. “It could bring a new quality of relationship and that is important. The first thing we look for right now is that we can trust again in our life,” said Hofer.
Kua agreed – “This has given us a chance to reflect on life and how we do this together. I think the community will become stronger, we are supporting each other and if we can get through this and the economic crisis we will be stronger,” he said.
In closing the conversation. Schumaker expressed hope that this time of crisis will change the perception people have of those who work in the food industry. “A lot of the food industry in the US has always been considered the help. I hope this drives people to think about those works and what they do and the effort it takes to open a restaurants and serve food to people,” he said.
Commenting on the discussion, Chris Karssiens, senior vice president of sales & marketing for roundtable sponsor Hoshizaki America, says the foodservice sector will be forever changed by the pandemic. “Hopefully in ways that cause us all to innovate and deliver exceptional equipment that is easy to keep clean, reduces the risk of cross-contamination, and continues to consistently produce clean, clear ice,” he said. “We need to take the lessons learned and apply them smartly.”
To find out more about our sponsor Hozhizaki America, please visit here.