Takeout containers

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed nearly everything about day-to-day life, including how people dine. Restaurants must abide by ordinances that greatly reduce (or prohibit) indoor dining. They're scrambling to save their businesses by focusing on takeout and delivery.

This shift has had a direct and immediate effect on their suppliers, who have an opportunity to be an indispensable partner for their foodservice clients.

"When this all started, we trained our salespeople and customer service team so they could help our customers understand the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state guidelines that affected how they operate their businesses," says Louie Davis, vice president of sales at Central Paper Company, Birmingham, Alabama. "Getting up to speed on that was a big deal."

Restaurants that had a robust takeout and delivery program before the pandemic found it easier to adapt to the sudden regulatory changes, says Laura Craven, vice president of marketing and communications at Imperial Dade, Jersey City, New Jersey.

"When the shutdowns began, restaurants had to act fast and come up with creative ways to earn revenue," she says. "For those operators that did not have much off-premises volume, they had to design processes and packaging programs fast. This is where a partnership with an experienced distributor is valuable."

Distributors worked quickly to educate their clients on best practices for food safety and delivery. This continues to include helping them choose the best products to optimize their menu offerings and meet customer expectations.

"Many of our customers had to get creative with their carry-out and delivery programs and focus on a different customer experience than they were used to," says Gary Thiakos, president of Zepole Restaurant Supply, Bolingbrook, Illinois. "By elevating their packaging program, many restaurants were able to get by with spikes in carry-out and delivery revenue."

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Pandemic Shifts Equipment Demands