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Boost briefing: Managing a food and drink business during the coronavirus crisis

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every food and drink SME in some capacity. Boost business relationship manager, Chris Rose, looks at ways to continue to trade during this crisis.

Businesses that specialise in food and drink, including pubs, restaurants, caterers and take away outlets, are all facing challenging times due to lockdown and social distancing. Food and drink retailers such as supermarkets that have continued to stay open have maintained a high level of sales. Vendors already offering e-commerce or online sales are experiencing a greater demand in purchases and orders placed online. But for many food and drink businesses, particularly in the hospitality and leisure sectors, with no alternative way to continue to trade, turnover has completely disappeared. These businesses need to look at alternative ways of getting product to market simply to generate some income.

Finding the resilience to survive

It’s not a time to be a shrinking violet. It’s never been more vital to tell the world you’re out there and to show them what you do. Many small businesses up to now may have been ‘time poor’ – with simply not enough hours in the day to do everything. One of the areas frequently missed as a result is ‘working on the business’ as opposed to ‘working in it’. This can be especially true in terms of digital marketing, using one or a number of social media platforms to help promote products and services. Many SMEs are not confident in this area which either means it’s outsourced if they can afford it, or it simply doesn’t get done.

Understanding the benefits of digital marketing

For the first time, many business owners may now have the time to invest in understanding the benefits of digital marketing or reflect on what was working well before COVID-19 hit the industry, and what wasn’t. A number of business support providers, including Boost, are hosting webinars to help business owners improve their understanding of selling online and develop skills in LinkedIn and social media. These webinar can certainly help to develop this area of communication and to create a new vehicle to generate sales.

Thinking of other ways to get your product to market

Many pubs and restaurants now offer to deliver, or have a collection service, where customers can pay online and pick up their favourite menu items. People seem keen to support their local businesses during this crisis, and it gives the companies a chance to find new customers while many of the big-name operators aren’t open for business.

There are great examples of pubs and restaurants offering a delivered meals service through Facebook, and other ingenious marketing ideas such as a ‘Pub in a Box’ offering canned drinks, pub snacks and a pub quiz. Look at mypubshop.com for a possible solution.

It would be good to think that a significant number of customers will choose to support their local businesses during this criris. Offering great products and service during lockdown should maintain their customer loyalty. Also promoting cleanliness and hygiene standards in the current climate will be of vital importance to customers, so keeping up quality standards and making sure your customers know, has never been more critical.

Asking for help

Finally, it’s important to remember that business advice is still out there. Like every other business, support services have had to change how support is delivered, and virtual conversations and online learning is now widely available. The UKHospitality website has a section dedicated to help the hospitality sector during the COVID-19 pandemic containing links to webinars and practical information and support.

Boost has a dedicated #AskForHelp team ready to assist Lancashire businesses impacted by the coronavirus. Our team can offer resilience tips as well as connect you to specialist advisers who can help you manage today’s unique challenges. And remember: furloughed staff can still train too – there is a wide range of training support available online covering many helpful subject and skills. Workshops and webinars for Lancashire businesses can be accessed via Boost’s events page. Thanks for reading my blog post and remember #AskForHelp. Chris has specialist experience in the food and drinks industry across a broad spectrum of project, franchise and operational management at unit, area and regional level. As part of Boost's business relationship management team, Chris offers helpful guidance and support to Lancashire businesses during the coronavirus crisis. You’re not alone in this. #AskForHelp. Call 0800 488 0057    


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