Maintaining customer engagement during lockdown

Last week, over 80% of consumers purchased the food for their meals from grocery retailers and the foodservice penetration fell to just 4% at breakfast and 8% at dinner. The enforced lockdown of restaurants, pubs and consumers themselves means the current situation looks bleak for most foodservice operators.  Although permitted to, the majority have chosen not to offer a delivery service, and 44% of consumers expect to use delivery/takeaway services less in the next week as concerns about food safety and budgets prevail. 

Maintaining communication and keeping consumers engaged during the coronavirus lockdown period offers a beacon of light for foodservice operators, many of whom have worked tirelessly to build up customer loyalty.  A key attraction to foodservice environments, besides the social aspect, is high quality and varied food.  Whilst unable to pop out to grab a breakfast to-go or dine on-site for multiple courses at dinner, the Great British public are taking to their own kitchens, with 3 in 5 (58%) acknowledging that they have been cooking more at home in the past few weeks.  Foodservice operators can still play a part in consumer lives regarding food intake during the coronavirus pandemic, by offering recipes and inspiration whilst the majority of meals are being cooked at home.

One operator already doing this is the White Brasserie Company, which is a collection of upmarket pubs with French brasserie-style restaurants.  The group has set up a Facebook community sharing meal ideas, inspiration and recipes.  The group has also been e-mailing its patrons recipes to try at home.  Recipe links are e-mailed out and uploaded to the website.  Mexican-chain, Wahaca, has also launched an initiative to maintain consumer engagement throughout the closure period.  ‘Wahaca At Home’ is an online platform to share recipes, cocktail ideas, playlists, activities and news of its charitable initiatives.  Accessed through the website and its social media accounts, the operator will stream an ongoing video series of Mexican-inspired recipes.

We anticipate a growing interest in trying new recipes, with 15% of consumers saying that they are already trying new recipes as a result of the coronavirus.  MCA/HIM expects this proportion to rise over the coming weeks as the UK remains in lockdown.  With consumers having increased amounts of time at home, offering brand related recipes or suggestions based on the brand’s cuisine can be a way of staying top of mind and offering something new and different to consumers.  Furthermore, given that 72% of shoppers have had to buy alternatives to products that they usually purchase due to limited availability, this offers an opportunity to share recipes for easily adaptable and customisable meals.

Maintaining communication and providing much needed meal inspiration during these unfamiliar times may well lead to heightened loyalty and engagement once things are back to normal – whenever this will be.


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