Back to Normal

Normalcy is overhyped. Wishing things were going ‘back to normal’ is basically hoping to return to comfort zone. But we all know if that really happens it means we declined or stagnated, it means the point of the changes were not really taken in, growth was forgone in search for comfort.

We talk about ‘new normal’ as if changes should be once off, and things settle back in an ‘equilibrium’. I think we are capable of handling dynamics way more than our economic equations would care to suggest. Some things I observe in the retail business activities out there at large is interesting:

  • Takeaways are increasingly important for F&B businesses outside; but a lot of them are still sub-optimal in the way they prepare food to be packed and then sent out for delivery or for self-collection. This might be an area ripe for some disruption though the gains from it is uncertain.
  • Self-service checkouts are increasingly usual and more sophisticated as the machines tend to be able to detect the entire shopping basket of goods when you put them into the sensor area. Packaging into shopping bags appears to still be a bottleneck. For non-food places, this can work nicely (people can chuck products into their bags or just store-sold totes/paper-bags) but for food outlets, new solutions might be needed.
  • Dinning outlets might have to rethink their desire for quick turn-around of customers because of cost associated with wiped-down, etc. It might pay off for them to keep customer around longer, feed them with increasingly high margin foods (smaller portions, higher priced) – which is likely the drinks and the desserts (prepare a menu for after-mains). Better queue-management systems like from Haidilao that really gets customers vested in the queue would help.
  • Given more work-from-home, there’s more on-demand food delivery but would food-subscription based business be more efficient? Especially when one already suffer from decision-fatigue while working.

None of these things were ‘normal’ years ago but now they kind of are. And they continue to be evolving and changing. So what does ‘back to normal’ really mean? Nothing.