Covid 19: The Unintended & Unknown Destination.

There is no mantra to riding out this pandemic. The only way is to stick together, believe in yourself and work through this toughest environment of our lives, as an industry.

  • A road not traveled by any of us before
  • A journey not undertaken by any of us before
  • We are all headed to a destination unknown to all of us

We find ourselves in the midst of unintended and unplanned for circumstances, unaware and unprepared of how to deal, survive, fight and live through this period. The extreme uncertainties bring about new situations and challenges to which we react, act and sometimes fail or succeed, on a daily basis

As an industry, we find ourselves in a F-I-L-O environment. No, this is not a new inventory storage mechanism but rather a timeline of events that have occurred upon all of us with a potential view of evaluating and coming out on the other side. I call it the First In Last Out model.

We were amongst the first to get hit with the emergence and spread of Covid-19 and shall be amongst the last to emerge out of it, thus making the journey through this phase, not only the longest but also that of going through and enduring maximum pain, financial stress, instability, impending closures with last but not the least, facing dire prospects of losing many livelihoods of passionate industry colleagues

That we will emerge is certain, which is just a matter of time. With all the strong and immediate actions taken by governments the world over and specifically those taken by the UAE government, have indeed set the tone and pace for tackling, dealing, containing and treating those affected. The UAE leadership’s decisions backed by supreme intelligence, learning and collaborative efforts have ensured the safety for all citizens and residents, alike.

Our industry’s resilience is on test, no doubt. This very same asset has brought everyone together for the common good. The good for each other, for humanity, for our employees, our customers and everyone’s well-being. With the UAE government proceeding with gradual opening up of all sectors, it seems like we could see the light at the end of this long tunnel very soon. While yet walking through this tunnel, I for-see many an activity that we all must and shall be forced to undertake, if we are to reach that light towards the end. I hereby highlight all these below :

Dig through the Hay Stack
Dig your business deep, unlock all the bolts, re-evaluate and re-jig your business model if you wish to survive. The earlier ways of doing business may not come back fully or in the same fashion. Business models for all of us and across industries are going to get turned over their heads
Polish Up
Lean times are an opportunity to rewind, rejuvenate and re-energize. Get the teams together, polish their skills and yours. Un-learn the old to learn the new
Embrace the New Normal
The new normal, when it does arrive, shall bring with it a complex web of challenges, ways of working and trends. Leaner and lighter business models shall emerge too
Look for out emerging trends such as home-cooking, home-chefs, supper clubs, new packaging for food delivery, meal-kits, merging lines between food, ready- to-cook and grocery preferences, sustainability, heightened customer consciousness about ingredients quality & ethical sourcing, to name a few
There is no choice but to do this. Re-align all your processes, internal and external. Outsource what you can, integrate with others in the industry to synergise and generate efficiencies while reducing overall costs
Larger companies will feel the heat to do their own levels of integration : backward, forward, internal and external at great speed to be able to hopefully come out leaner and stronger on the other side
It is inevitable for us to see consolidation in our industry in the months to come. Many a great concept may not be able to cross the tunnel and reach the other side. For those who actually manage doing so, will not reach there unscathed either. Serious long-term investors are expected to pick up brands and concepts at very low valuations. This is definitely not the best scenario for those selling out but left with none to very limited options, biting this bullet might be the only way out for many.
Preserve what you can hold onto, beginning with your employees, customers and yourself. Our industry is a skill driven one, powered by all human capital, which if allowed to dis-integrate will take the longest to re-build
Preserve cash if you have some left. The rain hasn’t gone yet
Keep the Faith
Last but not the least, trust yourself and those around you. You need everyone including yourself to stay safe and stay sane.
Wish the very best to everyone and see you on the other side