Hospitality & Catering

Transformational Planning in the Covid-19 Era

Transformational planning - how to execute this and what will be the new Paradigm?

april 17, 2020

Transformational Planning in Covid-19 Era, adapting to a new Paradigm


As Conceptional we want to share our expertise in the food and beverage industry and the impact of the Covid-19 crisis within this field. We have developed a structure in which we will share relevant topics, looking at the trends and developments, the impact it has on the society and what this means for F&B Placemaking, F&B Operations and F&B (Concept) Development. This article will be about transformational planning and the future restaurant industry. 



The title should talk about transformation planning as part of your daily business. But we all recognize the gravity of day-to-day business, budgets, plans chipping away the necessary time to set aside time to rethink, refresh and renew.Transformational planning takes away the compromises posed by the current business combining lessons learned, obtained insights, new capabilities and plotting them on a changed market or more generally, society. It is by no surprise that when hit by measures addressing Covid19 and the immediate economic slowdown and impact following this, companies use the time at hand, after initial fight for survival, to rethink and adapt to the new situation. Hence the start of transformational planning.  So how to execute this and what will be the new Paradigm?


When following the process, one of the main questions to be answered is whether we are willing to be brutally honest. Focussing on your key strengths, identifying the right decisions and plans made provides you with a framework of capabilities which you can use when reshaping your future. At the same time it takes courage to admit wrong paths taken,  recognize ill decisions and exposing weaknesses of your organization, team and proposition. You would say, so what is different of a transformational planning than setting up a SWOT-analysis. When utilizing SWOT’s we often use this in starting up new projects, migrating to a new horizon, without rationalize the existing base. It often starts with an outward look. With transformation planning it is adamant that you embrace the philosophy of creative destruction, take the retrospective and then plot this out against a new future.

With transformation planning it is adamant that you embrace the philosophy of creative destruction, take the retrospective and then plot this out against a new future.

At this moment the world is in disarray. Not many times in our life, and hopefully as little as possible, we are confronted with a system shock. In this we are not talking about the direct impact of Covid and the economic consequences, but more about a paradigm shift upon the business and as such also on the restaurant business we are in. Some shifts will be fundamental others will be smaller but still impacting our way of doing business and how our business is perceived by others, especially our guests.


So what will be the key shifts for the restaurant (operating) business in the (post) Covid19 era? A recent Harvard study also indicates that we might be confronted with a routine of interval lock-ups to keep the spread of the virus (and any future virus) within acceptable limits. At this moment in time we can foresee the following shifts:



From Physical to Virtual. The hybrid reality:

Restaurants and operators will explore and establish multiple routes to market. Making sure that the next time there is a crisis there are alternate solutions in place allowing continuation of (part of) the services. Exploring new revenue streams were the brand value will exceed the limitation of the physical location. This will range from products/meals ready for delivery, developing both physical as well as virtual restaurants and utilizing brands for food retail and catering purposes. Increasing your (virtual) footprint becomes fundamental.



Technology enabling service, efficiency and transparency. You better tech up!

The first restaurants without any (visible) staff or with robotized kitchens are popping up, driven by tech, efficiency. You might be familiar with Eatsa in San Fransisco, Spyce in Boston, Hey Zeus in Newcastle (Australia). Ordering terminals and app ordering are becoming quickly the new normal in the QSR and Fast Casual industry. Now Covid gives even more reason to rethink tech strategy. We all embrace the romantic and authentic values of good restaurants, good cuisines. But in a world were social distancing and transparency will become more important, self service ordering and kitchens with minimal staff become more attractive. Understanding what you eat and were it comes from will become increasingly important. But also think on heat camera’s, apps tracking personal healths providing guests and staff comfort etc.. So using tech has many reasons, Covid-19 just added some important new ones.


Cash Flow over Growth Rate. Redefinition of sustainable Growth.

One of the dreams which restaurant-chains and operators have is to grow their brand, their philosophy by opening new locations in both existing as well as new markets. Why not becoming the next Starbucks, the next McDonalds, the next etc..And preferably in just a fraction of the time it took these brand to establish their current foothold. Victim of these ambitious plans are caution, humbleness, realism and the overall cash flow performance of the company. If you overstretch your ability to grow, you expose yourself and if the percentage of underperforming locations is too high,  cash flow is meager,  times like this will cost you dear. 


Negative working capital becomes a no-go-zone. No more piggy back riding on the future.

One of the benefits of the restaurant business, or any cash driven business, is the ability to have a negative working capital and utilize this cash reserve as free financing in your business etc. This whole model is build on the expectation that business might slow down but will continue. Till now. Our business has got a reality check and maintaining a buffer for difficult times will not only become more common practice, but also a requirement of banks, landlord and the like. 


The new Healthy. It is the immune system stupid!

Eating Healthy will be redefined. It even has sometimes a defense element in it. Preventing obesity, preventing diabetes, lowering blood pressure etc. This will shift into the offensive modus now. Build and maintain a strong first line of defense for any disease, bacteria or virus….a strong immune system. Next to awareness on reducing certain types of food, portioning, snacking etc…it will also boost requirements on the nutritional value of the food we eat. We will always crave for our guilty pleasures but our focus on qualitative daily nutrition will grow.


Making the implicit, explicit or Transparency, Transparency, Transparency.

Derived from the new healthy we want to know what we eat, what are the values and this align with ‘what is good for me’ (DNA based). This will require transparency on both origin as well as insight into what we eat without taking away the experience. But also it will fuel growing awareness on other issues as carbon footprint and following strict hygiene rules and regulations. Restaurants will need to step up their certifications as well need to understand that regularity bodies will disclose all relevant information on-line. We will be in our undies, so we better look good.


Reconnecting with your guests, building a lasting relationship.

There is an old saying…in times of trouble you will see who are your real friends. If you are built around casual connection, impulse only, opportunism you might find out that you will be quite alone in darker times. Investing in true dialogue, relationships, relevance and in the end loyalty will help you to sustain and lays a strong foundation in growing your business. To allow for this you need to be very clear and vocal on what is you brand heart and who is your target audience.


Trust as a core asset..Promises made are promises kept.

Let’s face it. Our trust is shaken. We thought we understood the world, could define potential scenario’s, understand the control or freedom of choice we have….We will come out of this crisis with a renewed definition of trust. Trust in leaders, trust in the health care system, trust in…..Whether implicit or explicit our guests want to have full trust in who we are and what we do. What our brand promise is and how we are delivering each and every day on this promise. Not only will this require transparency but it needs to become part of our DNA.


Togetherness…we stand together….

Not that we all will get a romantic view on life and society. But we are in the middle of a reality check. And one of the lessons we are learning is that we are not in this alone and that we need and are depending on others. Off-course directly trust in those leading us, nurses, doctors, experts etc. but also in our community. So building communities will become even more important. Connecting with the local community but also with your business community and partners. Yes you might call them competitors in your fight for share of stomach, or those landlords demanding for rent. But we are certain we all will  start to understand that the restaurants in an area are part of a bigger scheme, bringing experience and attractiveness to a high street and inner city or strengthening the vision of a shopping center, increasing real estate value etc. So as a minimum this will bring more discussions on shared gain and shared pain in our relationship with landlords, but also more coordination on how different food concepts and restaurants can strengthen the total offer and attractiveness or our trade area instead of just competition. 


So in short, transformational planning should be a process you are submitting yourself to an a regular and in a brutal manner. Now in the (post) Covid19 era this will become even more important and will require more effort to make sure we adopt ourselves to a new reality and a new future.


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