Insights On Food Business Under Covid-19 Lockdown

By Akin Adeoya
Coronavirus has taught one good lesson to the observant: There is no business as secure as the food business. It matters not where you want to take your position in the chain, be it farming, processing transporting, retailing, or any of the myriad types of making food available to the populace be it the Traditional buka, fast food, take away or delivery. However, take note that fine dining restaurants either stand-alone or in hotels have not been able to survive the corona tsunami. They are patronized by fairly comfortable people who pay a lot for an occasional luxury. At the first sign of trouble, these withdraw to their own well-equipped kitchens and stop dining out. Traditional bukas also suffered because of the crowding that comes with it and of course it’s a business that succeeds on the basis of high volumes, this is not possible under the present circumstances. So who are the big winners?
1. Bakeries: All through this difficult period bakeries have not been able to meet demand. While other businesses are challenged or even closing down, bakeries appear to be expanding.
2. Frozen Chicken And Fish Sellers: How are you gonna cook without proteins? The shops remain not only open but thriving.
3. Fruit And Vegetable Corner Shops: The neighbourhood vegetable store, which is crudely practised in Nigeria is a lifesaver these times and I am sure they are smiling to the bank too. Mallams selling fruits in street corners are also a hit.That’s despite the bad press they have received of recent. I propose that small scale investors look at this exciting prospect to set up small but standardized fruit and vegetable stores in neighbourhoods. This would meet a great need and help people consume safer and better-trusted foods. This would also reduce the pressure on the markets which are generally poor in terms of hygiene. These neighbourhood vegetable stores are very popular and very successful in the UK, mostly run by Indians.
4. Logistics: If you are in the business of moving consumables. You are in luck as your business can only get a better lockdown or no lockdown. Retailers must continue to receive a steady supply of goods from the farms so consumers will not starve!
5. Deliver Or Die: Restaurants and other food retail outlets whose business models still rely heavily on walk-in and eat-in customers must urgently re strategise to survive. You must deliver or die. A post coronavirus world will not easily give up on the habits and lessons learned in these difficult times. A wary populace traumatised by the very idea of catching a death delivering disease simply by sitting next to some other customer may not easily fall back to old habits. And why should we? More and more people will prefer to order their meals to eat at home or in the office.  Developing an efficient platform both for marketing and fulfilment will now be the cornerstone of every business plan of anyone in the food business. One business that has developed some efficiency in this area is Domino Pizza. So when you notice the restaurant open all the time be sure it’s not because the place is full. They are busy delivering pizza all over the place. This is a strategy they have of course been working on pre-Corona and it is obvious the foresight is now helping their bank account.
6. My final comment here is the need for families to develop indoor and, where possible, outdoor gardens. The need for vegetables for instance which proved difficult to purchase challenged many households. Modern indoor farming practices make it possible to produce a certain percentage of what you use and this can be of great help in difficult and not so difficult times. You know nothing about it? You will be amazed at how much you can learn on youtube. If your passion is not there, introduce your kids, you will be amazed by the enthusiasm they will show to support this. Spending time learning about family-based indoor farming techniques will give your kids something valuable: Reduce the time spent on games, games and games!
* Akin Adeoya, journalist and businessman, is the founder and CEO, Marketing Mix.