Lockdown has meant dramatic changes to our daily lives, and we’re all finding our own ways to cope. But how is it affecting the way we plan and eat our meals? What has really changed, and will the changes last?
According to a study by the Brand Nursery we are far more organised when it comes to our shopping with 97% of shoppers are planning more carefully when to shop. Cooking from scratch also appears to be on the rise – baking and preparing meals from fresh being cited as being a source of comfort and greater sense of wellbeing.
The shopping experience has also been reported as being far more stressful, and although cooking from home has improved wellbeing for some, it has also lead to a phenomena known as ‘cooking fatigue’, which can explain the rise in takeaways and food subscription boxes.
Takeaways have seen a rise in orders, with customers seeking alternatives when faced with long waits for delivery slots and cooking the same meals from home. Food subscription boxes have also seen a surge in demand, as they are seen as a healthier alternative to takeaways, providing much needed inspiration for new recipes.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (the "Regulations") have enabled restaurants and cafes, who did not previously provide takeaway, implement takeaway services without obtaining any further planning consent. This has allowed some restaurants to stay afloat, and has also provided further choice for takeaway fans. However, restaurants and cafes continue to operate at a lower capacity, offering limited menus to customers. As a result restaurants and cafes are changing how they order supplies from wholesalers, reducing or even cancelling orders. Wholesalers have responded by exploring options for selling direct to customers, with Bidfood and JJ Foodservice launching direct to customer home delivery and click and collect for the first time.
It is important to note, however, that this change in planning legislation will only last for a period of 12 months from March 2020. After this point, for any business to continue to trade as a takeaway (where it was not doing so previously and did not have planning permission to trade as a takeaway) it must make a traditional planning application for change of use.
As such the appetite for takeaways may take a hit when some restaurants and cafés are no longer able to operate a takeaway service under the Regulations.
It remains to be seen as to whether this surge in growth in takeaways and subscription boxes will last as lockdown restrictions ease, with some restaurants and cafes re-opening and the recession environment creating economic uncertainty.
Bob van Dijk (the chief executive of Prosus, which holds significant stakes in several food delivery businesses around the world) remains hopeful stating that longer term it’s likely the current environment will drive a structural shift in consumer consumption patterns, driving people away from restaurants and towards delivery apps.
It is not certain whether lockdown has permanently changed the way we shop and eat, and if we will continue to seek alternative and less stressful ways to shop for our groceries as restrictions ease. The recession will also dictate our behaviour and, arguably, how and what we eat will depend on what we can afford.
The recipe box sector has been one of the few winners in the crisis. Mindful Chef has reported a 452 per cent rise in customer numbers since the end of March, as well as a 387 per cent increase in its recently launched sideline in frozen meals. Some customers have spent more than £500 in one order. Its larger rival, UK-based Gousto, had to stop accepting orders from new customers and has hired an extra 400 people. In April, despite generally gloomy investor sentiment, it secured £33m in new funds.