Justin Marx, chief executive officer of supplier Marx Foods, discusses how his restaurant customers are faring in the pandemic, as well as their prospects for recovery in the months ahead.
It’s been a rough year so far for the majority of Marx’s restaurant customers, although “it’s definitely a mixed bag,” he says. “Some are doing well, and some are suffering.”
The larger restaurant chains are sufficiently capitalized to ride out the recession caused by the pandemic, Marx says. But independent, single-location and “mom-and-pop” operations have struggled to survive. “It’s been a question of how resilient, tough and unwilling to quit they’ve been,” he says, noting that bad weather has exacerbated a situation already made dire by COVID-19. Snowstorms in Seattle and New York City frustrated efforts to open for outdoor dining.
In the months to come, those restaurants that continue to survive will be placing even greater emphasis on profitability. That means concentrating on offering products that they can make money on — specifically, the kind of comfort foods that diners have turned to in the pandemic. Many restaurants are also buying less-expensive cuts of meat and other items as they tailor their menus to meet current demand. And the trend toward localized sourcing is expected to continue.
At the same time, says Marx, restaurants will be focusing more on purchasing sustainable products. That has been Marx Foods’ emphasis for the last decade, he adds, noting its partnership with a producer of grass-fed beef and lamb from New Zealand.
To thrive beyond the pandemic, Marx says, restaurants will need to adopt an omnichannel approach that accounts for indoor and outdoor dining as well as takeout. Overall, he’s optimistic about the industry’s long-term prospects. “My expectation is that restaurants are really going to pop in the next months.”
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