Consumers were warned to avoid self-service consumer foodservice options during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the risks of contagion from the multiple handling of serving devices. Self-service cafeterias therefore witnessed a massive decline in sales in 2020 as the self-serve format was prohibited under health and safety measures implemented by each provincial government to slow the spread of coronavirus disease.
As self-serve food and beverages were forbidden during the lockdown periods, pre-made meals for takeaway and home delivery became the only viable option for self-service cafeterias. While many outlets did not take this approach, Ikea found success in reopening some of its locations with a takeaway menu, benefiting from consumer confidence in its ability to follow safe food handling procedures.
Most self-service cafeteria operators have tight profit margins which may not be able to support home delivery sales. As such, partnering with third party delivery platforms is often unsustainable due to high commission fees.
Self-service cafeterias will continue to struggle, with further closures in 2021 and 2022, having declined in popularity due to consumer safety concerns during the pandemic. As such, many consumers will move to limited-service restaurants.
Independent self-service cafeterias were hit badly during the pandemic and many will not be able to survive over the forecast period due to financial constraints. Most of those located in supermarkets have had to suspend operations amidst the restrictions on self-serve, while those located in shopping centres have had to shut down entirely along with many other non-essential businesses sharing these spaces.
The pandemic forced consumers to adopt new dining habits, such as online ordering and home delivery and increased at-home consumption, which are likely to last for several years. This will challenge the business model of self-service cafeterias as consumers move away from these outlets due to health and safety concerns.
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