Will selling groceries help restaurants ride out COVID-19?
Grocery stores are slammed with customers and restaurants are closed for dine-in patrons as the coronavirus pandemic continues to play havoc with business operations. For restaurants, the loss of dine-in sales has been devastating. Some are looking for other options during the current downturn, including adding groceries to their pickup and delivery menus.
Panera Bread began offering groceries for pickup and delivery (through Grubhub) on Monday, according to CNBC. The selections available include bread, bagels, milk, yogurt, cream cheese and fresh produce. The chain lost half its business when bans on in-restaurant dining began.
Independent and small chain restaurants nationwide have pursued similar approaches as the epidemic has worn on.
In Tampa, FL, the Tampa Bay Times gives a list of 10 local restaurants offering groceries, many selling commodities used as ingredients in their menu items, like beef, fresh fish, eggs and vegetables, alongside full takeout menus. Restaurants are offering not just food staples, but toiletries, kitchen products and cleaning products that have grown hard to find.
When you want to avoid the stores, we’re making it easier to stay at home. Now you can order your Panera favorites and groceries for pick-up or Contactless Delivery. We have the essentials like milk, a variety of breads, yogurt, and fresh produce. pic.twitter.com/1frrKmZTtN
— Panera Bread (@panerabread) April 8, 2020
In Tucson, AZ, the mayor of the city has explicitly authorized restaurants to temporarily act as pop-up grocery stores, according to a report by KGUN9 Tucson.
The emerging model offers hope not just for restaurants to maintain steady business while their primary offering is shut down, but for customers facing staple shortages along with delivery and pickup bottlenecks at their regular grocery stores.
Although food as a whole remains available, grocers have been experiencing shortages of some staple items as demand has surged.
While bread, meat, dairy and fresh produce are remaining well-stocked, there are other products that have gotten harder for shoppers to find, including dry goods, baking supplies, frozen vegetables and eggs, the Portland Press Herald reports. Some locations with smaller backrooms have had difficulty resupplying shelves as they empty of product.
Retailers have experienced similar capacity difficulties with last-mile logistics. Stores have been unable to meet the demand for online grocery orders and workers at major third-party delivery services, including Shipt and Instacart, have staged walkouts and even strikes over safety concerns.
- Panera Bread is selling groceries as restaurant sales plummet – CNBC
- 10 Tampa Bay restaurants that are now selling groceries and pantry items – Tampa Bay Times
- Mayor: Restaurants can operate as pop-up grocery stores – KGUN9
- Shortages of some grocery list staples could last for months – Portland Press Herald
- Shipt protest will last as long as needed, leader says – AL.com
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see grocery sales as a viable means for independent and chain restaurants to partially offset the loss of dine-in sales while Americans stay at home? Do you see better ways to bring relief to the delivery bottlenecks grocers are experiencing?