retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal this morning has a piece about how "perhaps no group has pivoted more quickly and more visibly during the pandemic than the restaurant industry. City landscapes across the U.S. have changed: tables, chairs and plywood structures sitting where cars used to park, pedestrians sharing sidewalks with diners and space heaters, thermometer-wielding hosts working double-duty as health monitors."

The story goes on:  "For many restaurant owners, pandemic-related labor shortages laid bare what was no longer working in an industry defined by its unrelenting work culture, and provided a window for experimentation. Many restaurants reopened post-lockdown with permanently revised pay structures and operations, as well as new standards to address burnout."

Among the most prominent business model changes that are likely to persist even as the pandemic recedes are the selling of merchandise, such as meal kits, spices and packaged foods, and the 

When indoor dining was curtailed, another source of revenue emerged in selling merchandise, including meal kits, spices and packaged foods, and the dedication of more physical space (including drive-through lanes) to the servicing of online orders - the feeling being that in both cases, such shifts allow restaurants to better broaden their offerings so that they can weather sometimes precipitous shifts in consumer behavior.

KC's View:

It also is worth noting that these business model adjustments make restaurants more competitive in their battle against traditional food stores, and better able to regain the share of the American stomach that they lost during the pandemic.

There are other changes cited in the Journal article - such as the use of digital checks, the editing of menus, and the continued expansion of al fresco dining.  But the selling of fresh food and groceries, as well as the maximizing of restaurants' ability to cater to online customers, strike me as the kinds of moves that will allow many restaurants to regain momentum lost during the pandemic.