Predicting the Trends: Hospitality Suppliers Adjusting Through a Tumultuous 2020 and in to 2021
As Covid-19 restrictions started to unfold in Melbourne, and the hospitality industry braced for uncertainty, Betty Bacash knew their 72-year-old family business, Hotel Agencies Hospitality & Restaurant Supplies, needed to prepare themselves for what was to come.
A major supplier within the hospitality industry, she says they were built to anticipate industry trends and the needs of their customers.
“Because we were the first port of call [we] found that we had to prepare ourselves in order for the industry to be prepared,” Bacash tells Hospitality Unites.
“While we were in lockdown, we sat down and said, ‘what’s everyone going to need when they open up again.’ We searched for thermometers, hand sanitisers, masks and different types of containers. We had to get a hold of that new range.”
Those items became big sellers.
“Takeaway containers were crazy, absolutely crazy [as] grazing boxes became the most popular thing. People became creative and were delivering everything from those grazing boxes to sandwiches and cakes and so on,” she says.
“The other thing that went crazy for us were domestic lines of baking tins, pasta machines, proofing baskets [and] cocktail shakers, as everyone was baking [and making] cocktails at home.”
She adds that some clients, who already specialised in takeaway service, opened new shops because they were doing so well.
“We’re survivors, and people will redirect their business in different ways,” she says.
“Exactly what we predicted”
A supplier to the hospitality industry with “a few thousand clients,” Danny Katebian of Cedar Hospitality Supplies, says that cleaning equipment and packaging sold well during last years lockdown.
But, he adds that crockery, cutlery, glassware and other table-top products went dormant.
“We predicted that packaging would sell [while] tabletop products and anything front-of-house – as well as chef’s uniforms – would stop, and it did stop,” he says.
With the cessation of strict COVID-19 restrictions, Bacash says that business feels very normal again, with the exception of certain industries and their CBD clients.
“Our every-day clients are coming in because their clients have come back. Some are even setting up new restaurants and cafes – which is nice to see – and are [buying] all the things you need to run a business,” she says.
Katebian has also seen a slowdown in the sale of household products post-lockdown, and they are selling more of their typical product range. However, he says things are not yet back to normal as there is no long-term assuredness in the hospitality industry, and customers don’t want to over-invest.
“We’re taking it day by day and week by week at the moment [as] long-term commitments are a little bit scarce. Business is not back to normal, because a lot of people haven’t gone back to work. The CBD is quite dead and [certain] industries haven’t kicked off yet,” Katebian says.
“In return, there is a big comeback in the country, regional areas and suburban restaurants, and you’ll find that a lot of people who would’ve closed for 2-3 weeks in January, haven’t.
“They’re still going, and that’s creating activity.”
“When you look, you know what you’re getting”
Katebian says that certain products – including wine-buckets, champagne and some large machinery – are selling well as businesses adapt to outdoor dining, and look at ways to manage staff turnover.
He adds that while online sales have grown over the last year, there has been a renewed desire for customers to come into their showroom.
“People are coming in, because they want that sense of reality again … online sales are good for repeat purchases [but] you can’t touch, smell or feel the product,” he says.
“A plate [for example] has a weight, certain feel and appearance [and] you need our salespeople and product managers to explain what something is, [rather than] just a subscription.
While Bacash believes outdoor dining has been a positive that’s beautified areas of Melbourne and brought European lifestyle to the city, she says it hasn’t necessitated a significant uptick in sales.
However, she predicts that there will be a burst of new products and general activity in the future, due to the creativity of the hospitality industry. One trend she predicts – depending on the continuation of COVID-19 restrictions – is face masks with the business’s logo on them.
“Everything that was free to use and communal – like salt and pepper shakers – have declined, but I think new products will definitely be created out of this. They are yet to be seen.
“If this continues on and becomes our life, things will change. We’ll see some products disappear, and new products that will develop.
But it was wonderful to see our customers come back into the store – how excited they were to see us, and us to see them”
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