Saturday, July 2 2022

Food and drink companies that have embraced digital during the pandemic have become stronger and leaner, with a solid platform for growth, says Jo Roberts, Superfast Business Wales.

As with shopping on the high streets, the food and beverage industry has gradually shifted from brick-and-mortar to online sales, with an increase in take-out and grocery delivery services. However, this shift has long been limited by a wealth of retail choice and supply chain logistics constrained by low product margins.

Until now. Driven by lockdowns and the closure of alternative venues like cafes, pubs and restaurants, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the industry’s shift to digital. This not only forced improvements in the consumer experience, but also saw upgrades in backend systems, data analytics and supply chain tools.

Food and beverage companies that have embraced technology and successfully gone digital have emerged from the pandemic stronger and leaner, with a solid platform for future growth. Many have already turned to Superfast Business Wales, which offers free webinars for food and beverage companies, with Digital Business Advisers available to provide individualized advice and personalized action plans. Here are some of their stories.

With the help of Superfast Business Wales, KD’s Bake House set up a website, Google listing and social media channels.

Starting a business at the best of times is difficult; doing so during the unprecedented events of a pandemic might seem like a lost cause. But the Tasteful Cake Company didn’t just survive, it thrived, thanks in large part to the quick reactions of owner Lyn Waddington. With the store forced to close during the pandemic and the cancellation of food and wedding festivals, Lyn knew she had to turn to online sales. Her company was already on the cutting edge of technology, but she had little experience reaching customers online.

By signing up for Superfast Business Wales free support, Lyn signed up for webinars on social media, SEO (search engine optimization), digital marketing and customer relationship management (CRM). With additional advice from a dedicated Digital businessness advisor, Lyn boosted her company’s online presence by running ads on Facebook and Instagram. Sales took off, securing the business in the short term and positioning it for future growth.

“Relying on Superfast Business Wales free IT training during lockdown,” says Lyn Waddington, “has allowed me to stay focused on getting my business going, despite all the restrictions on trading due to Covid. The sessions online were interesting and backed up by great resource packs that I can come back to again and again… Thanks SFBW!”

Photo of a person holding a cellphone with a laptop in the background

The digital switchover has also proven to be the savior of KD Bakery, located in the covered market of Abergavenny. Lukasz Kowalski-Davies bought the business just a month before the first lockdown in March 2020 and like everyone else in the industry was forced out of business when the market closed.

“Due to the closure of the Abergavenny covered market and the fact that we had not had the chance or the time to establish a relationship with customers, we were unable to trade between March 2020 and June 2020. But as a business owner, I used that time to develop our social media presence and set up a website, Superfast Business Wales helped me a lot in that process.

After ceasing to trade between March 2020 and June 2020, KD’s Bake House at Abergavenny moved its business online with great success.

With the help of Superfast Business Wales, Lukasz built his website, Google listing and key social media channels, enabling a business that relied entirely on phone orders to shift 30% of its business to online orders. “Having a website that showed who we are as a business and provided us with the space to showcase all of our breads, cakes and other products. This makes it easier for customers to understand what we offer.”

Going digital arguably saved Lukasz’s business at a time when it was impossible for brick-and-mortar businesses to open. At the same time, it allowed him to connect with customers in a more meaningful way and put the bakery on a solid footing for whatever the post-pandemic future holds.

“In December 2020, when many businesses had to close again, we were in a different position. We had established a good following and great digital communication channels through Facebook Messenger, email and phone messages. We were open one day a week and offered “pre-order and collect” and/or “delivery” services. This would not have been possible without the presence on social networks. Thus, between January 2021 and April 2021, more than 90% of our revenues were generated by customers pre-ordering via the website, on Facebook and using mobile messaging.

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