Food industry COVID-19 response

The COVID-19 crisis had a substantial impact on the wider food industry and its survival was at stake.

Overview

The Client referenced in this case study was established in 2013 to serve clients in the food industry and deliver end-to-end food supply chain solutions based on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and Optical Character Recognition (OCR). These same solutions were used in more than 40,000 restaurants per daily pre-pandemic times, covering operations, energy management, inventory, food safety, ordering, and sales for leading brands.

The COVID-19 crisis had a substantial impact on the wider food industry and its survival was at stake. While it was essential to uphold safety standards, restaurant owners were questioning how their businesses could continue to operate while adhering to measures that ensured staff remained healthy and all parts of their respective facilities were sanitized regularly.

Furthermore, governments introduced strict food industry regulations that made operations even more difficult to maintain and it was a challenge to keep employees, customers, co-workers, and their family members safe with some people being asymptomatic despite carrying the virus.

Because post-outbreak events transpired at a relentless pace, restaurants were mandated to pursue sustainable business models, implement a strategy that could overcome shutdowns, take care of staff, and ensure delivery and pick-up services ran seamlessly. Below are the details of how the Client succeeded in helping over 40,000 stores to better manage the situation.

Challenges

1

COVID-19 Impact
On Business

During the earliest stages of the crisis, regulations were introduced which either restricted or completely forbade customers dining in restaurants. As such, this had a detrimental effect on businesses with substantial losses and, at the very least, significantly lower customers.

2

New Regulations And
Safety Measures

New government regulations for food safety and the industry resulted in restaurants being required to implement operational changes and different tools. Every business was also required to implement sanitary measures to comply with the highest hygiene standards.

3

Staff
Management

Restaurants were also obligated to continuously check and monitor the health status of every staff member to verify they were not sick or symptomatic. In the event any employee tested positive or showed signs of being unwell, employers were bound by rules that stated they must take every necessary step to contain potential spreading of the virus.

What We Did

Rethinking the business model with stakeholders

Because dine-in was either not possible or far less profitable than before the outbreak, a different approach that ensured business continuity was essential. As such, ways to deliver food or ensure customers could acquire what they wanted were improved or created. In addition to delivery and pick-up via drive-thru, CME suggested a concept to ‘bring the experience home’; the restaurant would send raw materials and recipes to customers rather than the finished product for freshness and compliance purposes. To be successful, CME was commissioned to build an exclusive grocery application.

Pairing client solutions with the new business model

The latest delivery services standards instigated an underlying need to implement changes to existing solutions. For instance, all packaged food was required to come with a nutrition facts label – which was new for traditional dine-in restaurants. Any item leaving the restaurant in question should be accompanied by nutritional information and allergens present in products without failure. Therefore, CME’s approach entailed the provision of an easily printable labeling solution that would ensure compliance by providing the necessary information on all packaging.

Adapting and introducing solutions for new health and safety environment compliance

CME introduced a configurable Employee Health Survey to guarantee continued compliance with cleanliness and sanitization regulations, leveraging existing client solutions to bolster restaurant HSE processes. The survey would enable management figures to ask the necessary health questions to employees, such as ‘Do you have a fever?’ or ‘Have you come into contact with anybody symptomatic?’ Depending on their responses, management could verify that staff members are healthy to work, or act based on the recommendations provided in the event they are not.

Additional integrations

Maintaining healthy working spaces for the restaurant employees was imperative under new normal conditions, as was scheduled sanitization adherence. As such, CME aimed to integrate additional tasks into restaurant applications, with notifications and acknowledgment processes to ensure safety measures compliance. A checklist was also developed to guarantee constant compliance with cleanliness and sanitization regulations, where timers were utilized to remind staff to clean all surfaces and touchpoints hourly.

The Impact

REINVENTING THE BUSINESS AND OPERATIONS

Following the introduction of delivery, pick-up via drive-thru, and ‘bring the experience home’, restaurants were able to survive and ensure continuity throughout the pandemic, retaining customers, making profits, and growing their businesses. The new portal that transformed the restaurants’ business and operating models was achieved in one month. In total, many thousands of orders could be processed through the solution at any given time, with multiple transactions completed through the grocery application.

MINIMIZED HEALTH RISKS

With the automated enforcement of safety and sanitary measures and subsequent compliance at all times, restaurants successfully mitigated health risks to the best of their ability. Because proposed safety measures were integrated into restaurant operations platforms, workflows became governed through a centralized point, with the necessary adjustments and improvements made swiftly and concisely. For example, the Employee Health Survey required management approvals for staff to perform their roles and responsibilities; surfaces and touchpoints cleaning checklist offered a centralized control on sanitization compliance.

ENHANCED GROCERY AND SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT

Restaurants benefitted from outstanding improvements to their grocery and supply chain management operations. Supported by the existing infrastructure, the new grocery application was an enormous success, with seamless integration and fast response times becoming apparent as operations were streamlined within weeks. As an effective e-commerce solution, customers could either collect their materials and recipes directly from the restaurant in question or have them delivered to their homes – creating a new avenue that was unavailable to them before the pandemic. Furthermore, the notification system was influential, alerting staff to prepare orders in good time and providing them with ease and simplicity. The system also ensured customers were satisfied as they were notified when their items would be ready and avoided queue times.

BRAND
ELEVATION

Because the restaurants demonstrated care, introduced customers to new innovative concepts, and effectively brought their brand and offerings to households, their businesses benefitted from increased engagement. Customers new and old appreciated their efforts throughout an unprecedented period of difficulty, which drove better relationships and boosted both perceptions and the reputation of brands. From the employee’s perspective, these steps contributed to greater job security for over 100,000 staff members across 40,000 stores, with business continuity and success safeguarding their positions.

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