by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

2021 Technomic Outlook: Canada

2021 Technomic Outlook: Canada

by David Klemt

Technomic has been providing the foodservice industry with valuable insights on a global level for five decades.

The research and consulting firm has been one of my go-to information sources for at least ten years.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Canadian food delivery trends from multiple sources. This week, I’m taking a look at Technomic’s foodservice predictions for Canada.

Unprecedented and Unpredictable

First things first: predictions are best guesses. Technomic’s approach is scientific and data-driven but it’s important to approach any prediction with caution.

As the firm itself points out in their 2021 foodservice report, the global pandemic has thrown the industry into unprecedented territory.

It seems the only predictable element related to Covid-19 is that restaurants, bars and other hospitality businesses will bear the brunt of closures and restrictions.

That said, I trust Technomic to lead the industry through unpredictable, unprecedented moments in time.

5 Key Trends

Technomic has made five predictions for foodservice in Canada.

  1. 2021 will represent the start of financial recovery for foodservice. Technomic predicts moderate sales growth this year, below levels of 2019. However, limited-service restaurants are expected to perform better than their counterparts and return to 2019 revenue levels. Not surprisingly, Technomic expects full-service restaurants to be the most challenged.
  2. Operators will make their stances on social issues known. Multiple sources say today’s consumers want transparency from the brands they support. They want to know what company’s believe about climate change, food insecurity, social inequalities, diversity and hiring practices, fair pay for employees, and other issues. Technomic expects more operators to “double down” on transparency.
  3. On-premise operations will invest in off-premise business models. Again, multiple sources have reported that significant percentages of consumers are uncertain or uncomfortable about returning to restaurants and bars for in-person dining and drinking. Technomic expects operators to invest in smaller dining rooms so they can offer more limited-contact and contactless options to guests: walk-up ordering windows, multiple drive-thru lanes, designated curbside pickup locations, and in-store pickup and grab-and-go stations. The firm also expects more operators to embrace first-party/direct delivery, along with technologies like mobile ordering and geofencing.
  4. Comfort, quirkiness and indulgence. Technomic expects comfort foods to continue to perform well and encourages operators to get creative—even quirky—with this category. They caution that health will still be a focus of many guests and suggest that some operators will “disguise better-for-you meals as indulgent.”
  5. Our home and native land. Hyperlocality will play a crucial role in driving traffic given the travel restrictions imposed throughout Canada. Operators will likely forge relationships with local farms to attract local visitors to their venues. Technomic expects to see grassroots movements promoting support for small regional chains and local independent operations to gain traction.

Bring it all Together

Chasing trends can be a fool’s errand. Not every prediction made by Technomic will work for every restaurant or bar in Canada.

Just like Technomic collects and analyzes industry data, operators must review their guest, sales and operations data to make informed decisions. This is another reason it’s crucial to own the guest journey in its entirety.

Click here to view Technomic’s “2021 Canadian Trends Outlook” webinar.

Image: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Foodservice Workers Recommended for Phase 1c of Covid-19 Vaccines

Foodservice Workers Recommended for Phase 1c of Covid-19 Vaccines

by David Klemt

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that foodservice workers be included in phase 1c of the Covid-19 vaccine plan.

On Sunday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met to vote on phases 1b and 1c.

The committee identified those next in line for the two Covid-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna as “frontline essential workers” and people aged 75 years and older (phase 1b), and “other essential workers” (phase 1c).

Phase 1a consists of 24 million healthcare workers, residents of long-term care facilities (LTCF), and staff members who work at such facilities.

An estimated 49 million people are included in phase 1b. Roughly 30 million people in this group are categorized as frontline essential workers. Those in education (teachers, daycare workers, support staff), First Responders, United States Postal Service workers, corrections officers, grocery store workers, food and agriculture workers, those in manufacturing, and people who work in public transit will be inoculated in phase 1b.

People aged 16 to 64 who have high-risk medical conditions, those aged 65 to 74, and the other essential workers have been voted into phase 1c. Foodservice workers are among the roughly 57 million included in this phase, along with the media; construction workers; those who work in shelter and housing; transportation and logistics workers; those in finance, IT, communications, and the legal sector; people who work in the water and water waste industries; public safety workers; and the energy sector.

A lone dissent among the 13-1 vote came from Dr. Henry Bernstein. The doctor felt that, based on the available science, people aged 65 to 74 should have been included in phase 1b.

It’s important to note that states can go against the CDC’s “Phased Allocation of Covid-19 Vaccines” recommendations. For example, Governor Ron DeSantis has stated that the vaccines, which are not yet available to the general public, will go to people aged 70 and up in Florida in phase 1b. In Texas, those aged 65 years and older and people with certain chronic illnesses are said to be the state’s phase 1b priorities.

Other states may follow suit and deviate from the CDC’s phased allocations.

Image: Gustavo Fring from Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

“More help is on the way.” But not for restaurants and bars.

“More help is on the way.” But not for restaurants and bars.

by David Klemt

Speaking about the economic relief package, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) struck what can be generously described as tainted altruism.

“More help is on the way,” said McConnell on the Senate floor on Sunday. He also took the time to attempt to absolve Republican leadership of any blame for the glacier-paced movement forward on relief, laying the fault at Democrats’ feet.

To be blunt, both parties have failed the American people and small businesses in terms of providing federal assistance during the pandemic.

After months of inaction on relief—with the exception of a Congressional vote in September that failed to pass in the Senate—and weeks of discussions and partisan sniping, negotiators finally managed to zero in on a bill with a strong likelihood of becoming law.

Yet sifting through remarks made by some politicians regarding pandemic relief over the course of the past several months, variants of the word “prompt” were bandied about.

If the package passes—which is expected to happen later today—members of Congress and Senate will no doubt perform self-congratulatory victory laps for finally doing their jobs after months of failing to do much of anything in the way of relief. Meanwhile, millions of Americans will continue to face life-altering challenges, reaching out for lifelines that are simply not there.

Included in the package are a number of details identified as “key” to both political parties:

  • The ability for businesses that had received Paycheck Protection Program loans which had been forgiven to deduct the costs said loans covered on their federal tax returns.
  • Speaking of the PPP, it will be reopened with over $284 billion intended for small businesses.
  • $12 billion in available PPP funds for minority-owned and “very small” businesses.
  • $15 billion made available in PPP funds specifically for independent movie theaters, live music venues, and cultural institutions like museums.
  • $600 stimulus checks for qualifying adults (and each child in a household) who earned $75,000 or less in 2019. The amount would be reduced for people who earned more. Those who made $99,000 or more last year are not expected to receive a stimulus check.
  • A $300 boost to unemployment benefits for 11 months, with a possible implementation date of December 27.
  • Gig and contract workers enrolled in the PUA or PEUC programs can expect the same $300 boost to their benefits for 11 to 13 weeks.
  • The deadline to spend billions of dollars made available to cities and states via the CARES Act is expected to be extended from the end of this year to be an entire year.
  • $25 billion in emergency assistance for renters.
  • A moratorium on evictions expected to be extended through the end of January.

What’s not in the package expected to be rushed through Congress? Hundreds of billions of dollars in state and local aid Democrats wanted, liability shields for corporations Republicans wanted, the $120 billion RESTAURANTS Act, or the $240 billion Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Recovery Fund.

Despite McConnell’s declaration that federal assistance is on the way, the economic relief plan leaves an industry that employs millions of American workers and contributes hundreds of billions of dollars to the nation’s GDP (four percent before the pandemic) to fend for itself.

Guy Fieri, in all seriousness, has done more for more unemployed restaurant workers than the government, raising more than $21 million in relief funds in under two months.

The hospitality jobs lost due to Covid-19 aren’t expected to return. With more than 110,000 restaurants closed—and counting—the economic impact will be felt nationwide and, in all probability, have global ramifications.

The PPP turned out to be an absolute farce: billions of dollars went to businesses that are anything but small by definition. There’s little reason to believe the process will improve much (if at all) this time around.

And while restaurants and bars have been crucial to nurturing community, connections and culture since inception, they’re clearly not considered culturally relevant institutions by politicians.

With Congress facing an uphill battle in terms of drafting the language for the relief bill and then voting on it, expecting our elected officials to propose, negotiate, draft and vote on a bill for the hospitality industry seems foolish. That means the earliest the industry can expect help—which seems exceedingly unlikely to ever materialize—is in late February of 2021.

Apparently restaurants, bars, and the foodservice professionals they employ aren’t key to politicians on any side of the aisle. Well, not until they need venues to host their campaign fundraisers, that is.

Image: Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

One Fair Wage Survey Results: Foodservice Professionals on Front Lines of Infection Risk and Hostility

One Fair Wage Survey Results: Foodservice Professionals on Front Lines of Infection Risk and Hostility

by David Klemt

Over a three-week period, One Fair Wage (OFW) surveyed 1,675 foodservice workers in five states and Washington, D.C.

The survey was initially sent to more than 61,000 applicants to the One Fair Wage Emergency Fund in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and D.C. By November 9, 2,621 respondents had completed the OFW survey online. A total of 1,575 indicated they were currently employed and an additional 100 surveys were completed by phone.

One of the key takeaways of the survey is at once disturbing and unacceptable but not, infuriatingly, shocking. Not only did significant percentages of respondents report lax Covid-19 protocol training and enforcement along with increasingly hostile guests, close to half revealed “a dramatic increase in sexual harassment” since the pandemic struck.

Increased Sexual Harassment

Forty-one percent of survey respondents noted a marked shift in the frequency that guests are subjecting foodservice workers to unwanted sexualized comments. A quarter said they had personally experienced or witnessed “a significant” change in this manifestation of sexual harassment.

An analysis by OFW of the comments shared by respondents reveals the impact that this increase in sexual harassment has on the recipients. The comments have a negative effect on workers’ sense of safety in the workplace, financial security, physical health, and emotional and psychological health.

Of the 25 percent of the female respondents who had personally experienced or witnessed sexual harassment, 43 percent reported that comments were directly tied to social distancing and wearing masks, two pillars of Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

Identified by OFW as a “mild example” of the unwanted comments being made, “Take your mask off I want to see what’s underneath,” provides insight into the overall “theme” of the harassment being made. Many guests engaging in harassment appear to be sexualizing covered noses and mouths. Indeed, other comments support this analysis:

  • “Come on, sweetie. Lemme see that pretty face under there. Take it off for me, will you? Just a quick flash.”
  • “Please take the mask off, I want to see your lips.”
  • “Take off your mask so I know how much to tip you.”

When foodservice pros rebuff these unwanted advances, the responses tend toward hostility and smaller—or no—tips. In short order, these types of aggressors have found a way to weaponize the guest-server power dynamic and seemingly fetishize required Covid-19 protocols.

Increased Hostility

Whereas close to half of OFW survey respondents reported increased sexual harassment, more than three-quarters reported increased hostility from guests.

A staggering 78 percent of respondents said they had experienced or witnessed increased hostility as a response to following and enforcing Covid-19 protocols. Almost 60 percent said these incidents were occurring on a weekly basis.

Again, the power dynamic comes into play. Nearly 60 percent of respondents reported hesitation in enforcing Covid-19 protocols for fear doing so would affect their tips negatively. That concern is rooted in reality: 65 percent of respondents said they were tipped less on a weekly basis after enforcing health and safety protocols.

More than 80 percent said tips have decreased since the pandemic took hold, with 65 percent reporting that decrease to be 50 percent or more.

Impact of Subminimum Wage

One Fair Wage, as their name suggests and their mission clearly states, advocates and campaigns for all employers in America to pay full minimum wage. The organization also calls for tipped workers to receive full minimum wage plus their tips.

Per OFW, service workers—including people who work in salons and airports—are twice as likely to require food stamps to get by when compared to the rest of the workforce in the United States. Foodservice workers, however, are subjected to more sexual harassment than those workers in any other industry. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency, has identified the restaurant industry as the sector with the most sexual harassment charges filed by women.

This isn’t a digression. The OFW’s mission for a full minimum plus tips for tipped workers would have a direct impact on community health and safety. Infectious disease experts have warned that Covid-19 will not be the last pandemic with which we’ll have to contend. According to a report released by the CDC in September, the risk of contracting Covid-19 doubles for adults after dining inside a restaurant.

Were all service workers working for a full, living minimum wage, they’d likely be less concerned with incurring a guest’s wrath in the form of a reduced tip or no tip at all. The OFW survey findings that foodservice pros are being harassed to remove their masks or not socially distance—risking the health and safety of themselves and guests, then of family and friends, and therefore the community—and that 58 percent are reluctant to enforce Covid-19 protocols out of concern for their tips illustrates, in part, how subminimum wage for tipped workers can impact the health and safety of communities overall.

The pandemic has made foodservice workers and others who work with the public, by default, Covid-19 protocol enforcers. Clearly, significant swaths of the public feel zero compunction when it comes to responding with hostility, threats, harassment, and refusal to comply.

It’s also clear that guests who react with hostility and intimidation when employees are enforcing officially mandated health and safety requirements lest their employer face fines, the suspension of their business and/or liquor license, or any other form of punishment that puts their employment at risk won’t hesitate to wield the guest-server power dynamic as a weapon. That weapon can ultimately endanger an entire community.

The Good News

A mere ten percent of survey respondents reported their employers instruct employees to follow all Covid-19 health and safety protocols on a consistent basis, and just 31 percent of respondents said their employer follows all such protocols.

Those are startling numbers since ten percent of respondents said they had contracted Covid-19, 88 percent said they knew someone had contracted the infection, 44 percent reported that at least one coworker had contracted Covid-19, and a depressing 42 percent of those who reported knowing someone who had contracted the illness had died from it.

However, there were some positive pieces of data shared by survey respondents:

  • 92 percent reported their employers require all workers to wear masks.
  • 86 percent reported their employers require all workers to wash hands frequently.
  • 86 percent reported their employers require tables and chairs be wiped down and sanitized between uses.
  • 78 percent reported their employers provide employees with personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • 75 percent reported that a supervisor has told them they will have their back if they tell a guest or coworker to put on their mask whenever they’re within six feet of them.

In a perfect world, those percentages would all be one hundred. This isn’t a perfect world and there’s obviously major room for improvement. Management must step up in this time of crisis and uncertainty and embrace true leadership:

  • Respect the fact that employees are putting themselves at risk every shift. Put people first.
  • Avoid putting the bottom line ahead of health and safety.
  • Create and enforce a zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy—for employees and guests. Support employees when they report sexual harassment.
  • Communicate clearly and consistently. Transparency and targeted training must be priorities.
  • Display integrity when making decisions and enforcing rules.

Foodservice and hospitality industry professionals are on the front lines, sacrificing their own health and safety—and that of the people inside their bubble—to keep the industry afloat. Ownership and management need to protect them.

Read the entire OFW report here.

Image: engin akyurt on Unsplash