Binley Drake Consulting founder Martyn Drake argues that the UK catering equipment supply chain needs to grasp sales openings that the coronavirus pandemic has created, sooner rather than later, to ensure benefits:
Anyone who has spent time listening to colleagues across the industry will know the challenges now facing the catering equipment supply chain are neither straightforward to work through, nor evenly distributed among those affected.
Those closest to the hospitality markets are facing a cash crunch flowing right through the system. Existential warnings from the restaurant and hotel sectors are coming in thick and fast, and it’s hard to see demand bouncing back much before 2021. Big-name pub chains are sitting on invoices for goods and services already delivered, already long overdue, and refusing to pay until they’re up and running again themselves. On the current timeline that will be July at the very, very earliest.
In contrast, many of those serving health sector and construction markets, while having had to adjust, reschedule and rethink operations, are still delivering orders, servicing customers and winning new work. But as we come through this, the possible scenarios of a second phase of austerity, long-term behaviour shifts away from urban offices and so on, we could easily see a reversal in both those segments’ fortunes just as others bounce back.
On the plus side, there have been, and may continue to be, short-term opportunities to innovate outside the core business, to meet new and urgent needs: switching breweries to make sanitiser; fabrication machines to make hand-wash basins; display equipment to Covid screens. But most of these are ephemeral; if you’re not ‘fastest and firstest’ you can do a lot of retooling just to catch the tail-end of a contracting and competitive market.
But whether you’re capitalising on the transient opportunities or setting up for the newly emerging ones, one thing is true in any scenario: good things come to those who don’t wait.
Those who act, who anticipate and adapt, who can innovate solutions now for the challenges their customers will be facing over the next 12 months, who can help them get their businesses back on their feet ‘fastest and firstest’ in their own markets, they’re the ones who will capitalise on the greatest opportunities and go on to win in the world of tomorrow.
Those who sit around now, worrying about all the challenges, instead of getting out there ahead of them; those who can’t muster up the flexibility and creativity to solve the most difficult challenges facing customers; they’re the ones who will struggle to survive.
And thus, the most valuable thing you can do right now is to build that insight and understanding, build those relationships, flex those creative muscles and position yourself as the experts that your customers and potential customers can turn to, rely on, and depend upon, whatever the future holds.
It might sound like a stretch, but it’s the easiest thing in the world. Just speak to them, listen to them, ask how you can help and suggest ways for them to help themselves. “We care about our customers” is a phrase that often adorns our offices. Now is the time to show that we mean it.