Should Your Food Business Pivot to Delivery?

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COVID-19 has disrupted the food industry in countless ways, with nearly every CPG brand, retailer, restaurant, distributor, broker, supplier and farmer feeling the impact. Some businesses have been hit harder than others; some have responded to the unprecedented challenges better than others. While many food-related businesses haven’t been able to survive the sudden turmoil (understandably), plenty have paved new runways out of trouble and managed to keep their companies afloat.

The food businesses still kicking today share a few common traits: flexibility, creativity, resourcefulness, resiliency and, maybe most important of all, willingness to toss aside the old playbook and pivot in a new direction.

Rethinking an entire business strategy is never easy. But figuring out how to change courses abruptly and then execute swiftly, as the pandemic has forced so many food companies to do, is a whole other beast. It’s daunting, frustrating and particularly painful when the old plan worked wonderfully. But when a business’s primary sales channel is choked or its best customers go belly up or its access to consumers is suddenly severed? Time to suck it up and pivot.

Brix Cider, a farm-to-table eatery and taproom in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, found itself in this position in March, as COVID-19 started ripping through the U.S. Business was stellar, and Marie and Matt Raboin didn’t want to mess with the formula they’d worked so hard to nail. But for the cidery to survive—and to avoid abandoning dozens of farmer partners—they had to innovate and act fast.

In a matter of days, Brix Cider reinvented itself as a food hub, launching an e-commerce site where customers can order farm-fresh groceries for pickup or delivery. This summer, the company pivoted again, reopening the patio for dining and turning the taproom into a marketplace for onsite grocery shopping. Check out the latest Edible-Alpha® podcast to hear the story straight from Marie.

Brix Cider isn’t the only restaurant to pivot to  food hub or small grocery store with optional delivery, although its curated list of superior-quality, straight-from-the-farm offerings is certainly unique. Restaurants and other foodservice operators nationwide have made similar moves in efforts to stay in business, keep their suppliers in business and help consumers limit shopping trips. Big chains that have done this, such as Panera and Subway, have ample resources to pull this off. But the little guys—like Brix—have really had to get creative.   

Especially when it comes to delivery. This service requires an infrastructure that’s challenging to build on the fly. Who will do the driving? How big of a service area is reasonable? If delivery is an option, will enough consumers bite to make it worthwhile? How much are people willing to pay to have groceries, prepared meals or farm-direct grass-fed beef brought to their front door?

These are tough questions, and depending on where the business is based and the specific circumstances and needs of its community, implementing delivery may not be achievable. But if a restaurant, cafeteria, marketplace or manufacturer can pivot to make it work, they could unlock a new revenue stream, gain a new way to market their brand and potentially attract new customers. As you do this work, remember you are not alone. Join Edible-Alpha for our Monday huddles, both for consultants and entrepreneurs, where we talk about national trends and pivots that are working. 

And now, our roundup of the best food and beverage finance news, events and resources from around the web…

Consultant With TabletBusiness Model Insights

Raising CapitalRaising Capital

National Wholesale BrandsCPG/National Brands

Grocery Store Produce Section Market Trends

Regenerative AgricultureFarming and AgTech

Mergers And AcquisitionsDeals/M&A

Virtual events

In-person events

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