Published March 24, 2021
By Jeff Wilhelm, Restaurant Strategy & Digital Transformation Services
Coming out of the 2008 financial crisis, financial institutions were facing a recovery. The shattering of the housing “bubble” had shaken the industry to its core, introducing new legislative reforms. But it also became the catalyst for progress toward a more modern, more digital, more customer-centric banking industry. Financial institutions were thrust into a new world…by a new world. It wasn’t necessarily “a strategy” as much as “a survival.”
As we look back to the financial crisis nearly 10 years ago, could it bring any clarity to the restaurant industry in a post-COVID world? I think you'll find the catalyst to change and the specific response to the crisis to be uncannily similar.
In the post-apocalyptic years after the financial crisis, banking trends and strategy shifted from lip-service to “GO!” overnight. Industry pundits and banking CIOs were all saying the same thing:
That’s because in 2020, roughly 12 years from the start of the financial crisis, we saw another event, entirely unpredicted and external, that turned another industry on its head: the restaurant industry. Of course the catalyst is the pandemic. And once again business concepts, strategy, operational models and ideas are thrust forward not by corporate strategy – but by corporate survival.
And once again, the themes of the recovery are very similar:
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In 1959, President John F. Kennedy was quoted in a speech in Indianapolis that said, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for ‘danger’; the other for ‘opportunity.’”
The quote was later deemed an incorrect interpretation of the language—but it’s a great way to illustrate the two-sided coin of a crisis. And it's an apt summary of both the financial crisis of 2008 and the pandemic of 2020.
These events shoved, pushed, threw, thrust, drove and heaved financial institutions and restaurants into a new world and new kind of industry. It forced organizations to turn theories and goals into execution and results—fast.
We can see that the immediate strategy for restaurants looks eerily similar to that of banks shortly after the crisis. But, what insights from that crisis can we carry over to the restaurant industry, beyond the immediate near-term? It’s hard to say, but we know that after 2012, banks:
Will we see the same acceleration of these concepts in the restaurant space in coming years?
I wouldn’t bet against it.