The global lockdown has disrupted many businesses, most evidently, the food and beverage (F&B) and entertainment sectors. Restaurants had to adapt to forced shut downs, with many starting to deliver food through Apps. As Lebanon started to open up, restaurants were then faced with the challenge of operating at 30% capacity, and many opted to close their doors instead of endure losses.
During the confinement, one App was on everyone’s mind – Toters. The delivery service App started responding to market demands, adding groceries, pharmaceutical items and donation boxes to service every need. BDD’s team sat with Tamim Khalfa (TK), CEO of Toters to discuss disruption, adaptation and the future of the food industry.
BDD: What trends have you seen emerge in the dining industry, during and post COVID-19?
TK: The dining industry has been heavily impacted by COVID-19, as restaurants were forced to shut down the dine-in part of their service and relied heavily or solely on delivery. We've seen an acceleration in the adoption of digital services and e-commerce in general, and food delivery/on-demand delivery in particular. Our business model particularly was well-suited to service customers during COVID-19 due to the various verticals we offered. As COVID-19 curfews and lockdowns lift up, we are seeing restaurants go back to opening their restaurants for dine-in although some have switched to a delivery-only model.
BDD: What predictions do you have for the future of the food industry?
TK: We expect to see more restaurants switch to a delivery-only model and new ones pop-up in a "cloud-kitchen" setup. Business in general will start moving away from expensive real-estate locations for physical shopping or dine-in, and towards the less expensive locations selling over the internet and relying on logistics/last-mile companies to deliver quickly.
BDD: How have delivery services been impacted as a result of the crisis?
TK: We've seen an increase in demand due to the quarantine measures. Even outside of quarantine hours, people have been wanting to avoid crowded spaces and are seeking online shopping to get their essentials. This goes beyond delivery from restaurants and includes groceries as well as different types of retailers. The end result is more people tried e-commerce and the shift towards that got accelerated.
BDD: What can we expect to see from delivery service apps in the coming months?
TK: You will start seeing more of the brick-and-mortar businesses come online. This already started happening on the Toters platform and you're starting to see the largest traditional retailers and restaurants listed on Toters. There's also going to be increased competition in this space especially for online groceries.
BDD: What are consumers demanding more of, from delivery service companies?
TK: Consumers are demanding variety, transparency, and good service. Those are the same things that were demanded from service companies pre COVID-19, but now expectations are higher because the online shopping experience is expected to replace the physical one.
BDD: Any exciting plans for Toters in the coming months?
We have many exciting things that we've recently launched. We recently launched "Toters Fresh," our own-managed grocery store on Toters which offers a much-demanded friction-less grocery ordering experience. In addition, we rolled out Toters Rewards our loyalty program which allows you to earn points with Toters purchases and redeem them against meals on the app, discounts, partner service and/or charity. Last but not least, more big name restaurants are coming to the app to further enrich the selection for our customers. This is all common across Lebanon and Iraq.
The global pandemic has indeed disrupted industries and sectors – some for the better. As many trends disappear and new ones emerge, one thing is for sure - the convenience of delivery Apps is here to stay and grow.