by Dave Argento ’21 A&E Staff
As we approach almost a full year of COVID-19 quarantines and reinvented ways of life, the shifts in consumer trends and business models will likely leave a lasting impact on the new normal of industries, such as the restaurant industry. Given that the usage of food delivery apps has grown exponentially since the start of the pandemic, Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub will remain household names for the foreseeable future. Restaurants have been forced to adapt to this trend as the proportion of sales coming from mobile orders has surpassed 50 percent for many.
Although food delivery has seen such a significant boom, many challenges threaten the long-term feasibility of the business model. Levi Sumagaysay of MarketWatch writes, “While the companies are seeing a surge in business, their costs remain too high to post any sustained profit.” These costs often lead to noticeable fees that each transaction collects, which deter both restaurants and consumers from using the services. This bottleneck of process inefficiencies coming from charging high fees and swallowing the costs of labor is a major issue for the industry as businesses search for adequate solutions.
An effort to find such a solution can be found local to Providence College at Bath Food Co., which is a new response to the COVID-19 dining landscape. They bring a new efficiency for restaurants and mobile food ordering services by simplifying the process. Their creative response to reduced indoor dining is to act as the bridge between the kitchen and the customer. Essentially, with Bath Food Co,, restaurants are able to rent out one of their kitchens to be part of the hub of dining options, serving as another potential location for chain or local restaurants.
Approximately a mile from the College’s campus, at 65 Bath Street, many students are likely to notice the new dining options available. Chick-fil-A, Pokemoto, and Tilly’s PVD are only a few of the choices for Providence students to enjoy as the close proximity to campus makes pickup and delivery as quick and inexpensive as possible.
When a food delivery person or mobile order enters the minimalist warehouse-like building, they are greeted with a check-in point of five iPads and a pick-up window for their food. The process is as simple as possible so that little to no wait is required to obtain the order. The lack of a need for waiting staff and restaurant upkeep keeps margins high for the producers while providing the same level of quality one could expect from the original locations of the restaurants. The advantageous location allows more deliveries to occur at an expedited rate.
As the vaccines and decreasing rates of positive testing provide a light at the end of the tunnel, it will be fascinating to see how a return to a new sense of normal will impact those that have flourished in the COVID-19 environment. Delivery apps had already been on the rise before the pandemic, so if the trend continues, innovative business models like Bath Food Co. may be here to stay for the dining industry at large.