Industry Partners

Increasingly Muddy Waters Between Retail, Foodservice

A new reality or pandemic-related anomaly?
Big Boy's Market
Photograph courtesy of Big Boy's Market

The lines between retail grocers and foodservice have been blurring for years and with the coronavirus pandemic shuttering dining areas across the country, that line has become even murkier. Retail and foodservice entities are working closely together in unprecedented ways to keep the country fed, from grocers selling restaurant meals out of their stores to foodservice distributors beginning to supply grocery stores.

That trend is now growing beyond just partnerships. WGB sister publication Restaurant Business recently ran an article about restaurants that are turning into grocery stores in order to survive during the pandemic as grocery stores are having some issues with keeping store shelves stocked. It is all an effort to keep the country’s citizens fully stocked with food.

Frisch’s Big Boy, a quick-service chain across Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, is opening up its locations as Big Boy’s Markets for consumers to stock up on food and other supplies. On hand are perishables such as milk, celery, broccoli, tomatoes and Frisch’s housemade tuna salad, along with more shelf-stable items such as bread, sugar, single-serve cereals, ketchup, mustard, bottled water and one of the scarcest commodities—toilet paper.

“We already have our own commissaries and distribution centers that bring in supplies to our 120 restaurants every day,” said Frisch’s CEO Jason Vaughn. “Our chairman, Aziz Hashim, came up with the market idea to help out the community.” Last week, 100 locations transitioned to grocery stores, allowing customers to shop by drive-thru without getting out of their cars or order through Frischs.com for delivery.

Retail Temporarily

FoodMaven, which sells lost food due to oversupply, out-of-spec or local food without effective distribution channels through an online marketplace to restaurants and institutions such as universities and hotels, also is switching gears to focus on retail distribution directly to consumers. It has launched a drive-thru and delivery bulk grocery service in Colorado, temporarily opening its inventory to consumers to support food security in Colorado communities. Bulk food items will be available from FoodMaven through a pickup or delivery option. 

“There is plenty of food in the supply chain right now, the system is just struggling to readjust to the new situation,” said Ben Deda, CEO of FoodMaven. “We need to create a food system that is flexible enough to adjust these imbalances.” The company will continue to serve its primary customer base: restaurants, hospitality and institutions.

While these measures are meant to be temporary, now that the logistics have been figured out, will they become permanent once the world returns to “normal,” or is this the beginning of a new normal?

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