Challenges Facing The Food & Beverage Sector Looking Ahead to 2022

Nearly every industry has had to change, adapt or pivot (sometimes more than once) during the past 20 months. If you’re in the food and beverage industry, you know that your business has not been exempt from having to adjust and adapt.

A Full Plate of Challenges. From staffing and supply shortages to rising costs and ever-changing consumer preferences, this sector has the full smorgasbord, and the challenges are ongoing. Here’s a look at some of the top issues that will continue into the next year.  

#1 Labour Shortages  

Attracting, developing and retaining employees has been a major issue in this time of COVID-19, and that’s felt keenly by food and beverage organisations at every level, from production and manufacturing to logistics to food service. Staffing difficulties have come at a hard time for these businesses already scrambling with a number of other pressing issues.  

73% of Irish food businesses consider staffing shortages a risk to future development and growth, and 38% see it as a critical or very significant risk.  

#2 High Consumer Demand 

Consumer tastes and preferences, as well as their behaviours around everything having to do with food (from shopping to dining out), have been vastly altered by the pandemic. Consumers are increasingly looking for foods that are less processed, more natural, plant-based, and that purport to offer immunity-boosting and even emotional or mental well-being benefits.  

At the same time, they want the comfort of breads and stews, or to enjoy global flavours at home when travel is out of the question. A resurgence of interest in eating local food is another trend that has brought specific challenges. Those in the food and beverage industry must keep pace with changing consumer desires and be on the forefront to remain competitive.  

#3 Safety 

Food safety has always been a core concern of the industry, but with the pandemic, consumers are more interested than ever in how and where their food is made. Add to that the challenge for businesses to keep their employees safe at work.  

The heightened emphasis on safety has necessitated layers of precautions for those in the food and beverage sector: the addition of shields between tables in restaurants; altering production to accommodate safe distancing for employees; requiring masks and other protective equipment, and training on proper usage; and ensuring adherence to safety measures are just some of the many adjustments.

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Innovative Design and Technology 

Whether it’s creating take-out kits, organising “streeteries” (outdoor eateries that allow people to dine out, but do so safely), or developing contactless means of ordering and receiving food (whether delivered kerbside or to a residence), innovations like these have been a must for staying in business and attracting customers.  

Technology is at the heart of this, and although the sector was already in the midst of adopting technologies to enhance the customer experience (think mobile payment platforms and self-ordering kiosks or apps), all of that was accelerated with the pandemic.  

#4 Repeat Shutdowns  

The multiple waves of COVID-19 have created so much uncertainty for the industry. Just as things would be getting back to “normal,” another lockdown would occur. Pubs and restaurants have been beholden to local regulations and COVID-19 case numbers as to whether they could be open or closed, as well as what capacity they could contain.  

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For a business owner, never really knowing when the next shutdown could happen wreaks havoc on your business, from staffing challenges to knowing how much supply to order, and so on.  

#5 The Need for More Sustainable Practices 

This is one of the most significant challenges facing the global food and drink industry, and brings organisations’ desires to be more socially responsible in line with consumer demands and expectations around everything from more sustainable packaging to more conscientious waste practices.  

95% of Irish food businesses surveyed say that sustainability will become increasingly important in the next few years. This is another area that was already in the spotlight, but the pandemic era has made it even more so.  

Appetite For Better: Serving Up Enhanced Communication, Connection, and Compliance 

There’s no one answer to solving these challenges, but one way to begin to chip away at the list of never-ending issues starts with how those in every corner of the food and beverage sector communicate with their people.  

Bringing people together — whether in person or digitally — has problem-solving power, and that’s why investing in technology is more important than ever. Just as food and beverage businesses are using mobile apps to improve customer service and safety, they must also use employee apps to improve employee experience and safety.  

Inform, Engage, Develop and Retain Employees  

One business that found itself needing to communicate up-to-the-moment changes in operations was The Derry Group, part of Derry Refrigerated Transport, a provider of chilled and frozen distribution throughout Ireland, the UK and Europe. The Derry Group turned to an app from Thrive to ensure employees felt supported and to also improve organisational efficiency and engagement.  

Whether your business is afflicted with labour shortages, or you’re trying to manage rotating employee schedules, an employee app can act as a single, reliable point of communication. Many employees in this industry are deskless and don’t have consistent access to email, but an app can be available on a team member’s own device, so you can keep them updated on the latest company news.

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One of the particular strengths of communicating with your teams via an app over other forms of digital communication is the opportunity to deliver segmented, targeted messages. An employee in production won’t necessarily need the same information as one on the front line, so delivering the right message to the right recipient is a must for keeping employees engaged.  

Furthering engagement, in-app features enable employee recognition, pulse surveys, and user-generated content to be easily sent and absorbed. And you can gather data on how and whether employees are engaging with the content, so you can improve it (and thereby improve the employee experience).  

Ensure Compliance with Safety Measures 

Information about safety is critical for your teams and your customers, but sending it out via email is a sure way to get it missed by employees. In-app compliance features enable you to both communicate out essential information in a timely manner, as well as collect acknowledgements that your employees have read and understood important information.  

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Rolling Out Sustainability Strategies  

Implementing new sustainability practices often requires challenges starting with policy all the way to behaviour. An app can be used to communicate changes and expectations to staff at all levels, and it can also be used to gather ideas and gain buy-in about greening up your organisation.  

For example, McCue, a project management, commercial fit-out and bespoke joinery company in Ireland that has high profile restaurant and hospitality projects, uses an app from Thrive to engage its employees in the business’ sustainability efforts.  

Adapt Quickly to Consumer Demands and Other External Pressures

R&D in the food and beverage space takes a long time, but one way to ensure employees quickly adapt to changes in processes impacting their roles is by increasing streamlined, efficient communication.  

Bringing an app into the overarching digital strategy can ensure this communication is transmitted promptly, so your employees can adapt quickly. Businesses that have this nimble quality are the ones who will be able to keep up with demand, keep costs under control, and grow in the face of challenges.  

Next Steps… 

Would you like to learn more about how our app is specifically designed to help you overcome the challenges faced by your industry? Let us show you how others in your industry have found success with Thrive, and how you can, too.