The unprecedented outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the ceasing of international and domestic flight operationsto regulate passenger movement and prevent the virus's widespread propagation. Within a short time, the aviation industry oversaw a myriad of changes that it had not witnessed in a generation. The airport business seemingly came to a standstill with virtually no customers at the airports, resulting in minimal sales for the consumer-centric F&B sector.
As the world commences to step into the post-pandemic era, most businesses still find themselves in a mode of survival, reinventing themselves to stay relevant in a world driven by change. The airport F&B industry is one such domain that has undergone a metamorphosis to offer travelers a quality-focused wining and dining experience.
Let us discuss the significant changes that have been undertaken by the innovative airport F&B sector post the pandemic.
Safety and Sanitation: Safety and Sanitation are the two of the main concerns for traveling passengers, which is why all F&B operators are strictly mandated to adhere to the protocols laid down by the Food Safety& Standards Authority of India. The governing body's 48-pointer checklist now serves as the SOP for licensed service providers. In addition, all airport F&B services are obligated to fulfill four specific mandatory requirements to obtain a favorable FSSAI Food Hygiene Rating. Businesses are scored according to their fulfillment of the four significant parameters. A score of 81 or above is generally an indication of a well-run operation. The FSSAI rating system is similar to the UK's FHRS (Food Hygiene Rating Scheme) and has recently been instated in India to elevate the standards of food hygiene and quality of service within the F&B industry, making it comparable to international standards.
Menu Reengineering: The pandemic has increased self-awareness among travelers who now have a greater understanding of the value of health and well-being. The change in emphasis has resulted in consumers constantly seeking healthier dining options. Several leading F&B operators have responded to the trend by reengineering and redesigning their menus to represent healthy food options for their health-conscious customers adequately. Equipped with simplified and highly-optimized menus, F&B businesses convey their specialties better and display their customer-centric nature effectively.
Introduction of Healthy Concepts: Adopting an organic or vegan diet had become increasingly popular during the pandemic due to its perceived health and immunity-boosting benefits. Consequently, the F&B industry witnessed a rapid rise in vegan-only and farm-to-table establishments that promote plant-based consumption. Considering that the typical Indian diet is generally vegan-friendly, the lifestyle transition was relatively prompt and easy to implement for most consumers.
Digitization & Use of AI: Digitalization and the use of AI have become the norm post the pandemic; almost every operator has incorporated features to enhance the guest experience, improve efficiency and speed of service. AI assists tech-driven F&B players by enabling them to understand the preferences of their consumersin detail by leveraging existing data through a series of algorithms. Businesses are now equipped with the foresightedness of accuratelypredicting the behavior patterns of their patrons, a win-win situation for both parties.
Contactless Delivery: The contactless delivery model gained immense popularity during the lockdown in light of the stringent social distancing initiatives undertaken by governments across the globe. The contactless system continues to be employed at airports for food deliveries as customers can access many high-quality gastronomic options, all without leaving the comforts of the service gate. The concept is highly convenient, time-efficient, and minimizes human contact, which is why its dependency has increased, despite the world being in the post-pandemic stage.
Hence, we have seen that the F&Bsector is rapidly evolving, with digitization being at its helm. The services industry is gearing up to develop into a highly-customized and consumer-focused ecosystem that continually introduces innovative offerings. Aspects such as health & safety will be globally standardized, and daily operations will become leaner,decreasing their dependence on labor. All these improvements will usher in a new era in consumer experience, functioning as a trendsetter for other industries to emulate in the future.