First PropertyGuru Asia Real Estate Summit webinar for 2021 tackles the evolution of F&B assets in the Covid era

Experts provided insights on how F&B operators managed and survived COVID-19, as well as shared the importance of e-commerce and contactless services during such a time

Some of the major trends that popped up because of the pandemic include online to offline home bakers, gourmet dining at home, and the rise of food delivery and grocery services

In the first PropertyGuru Asia Real Estate Summit webinar in 2021 moderated by Stephen Oehme, the managing director of Quantum Thailand Ltd, experts discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Food and Beverage (F&B) tenants and businesses across the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the use of e-commerce apps and contactless tech/service in sustaining this segment.  

Dr. Nimal de Silva, the director and chief executive office of Paramount Realty and the jury chairperson of the PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Sri Lanka), explored the challenges faced by landlords and typical entrepreneurs in the sector. He said that there has been a huge drop in demand due to lockdown and travel restrictions, severely affecting landlords as F&B struggles with cash flow issues. With the current situation, players in the industry have been forced to think outside the box for creative solutions that will help sustain their businesses. Meanwhile, he revealed that restaurant’s business models have changed drastically throughout the course of the pandemic, with fine dining spots condensing their menu to better manage their supply chain and capital requirement and others transitioning from on-premise to off-premise services (takeaway and delivery). 

“As you know, it’s not business as usual anymore. Some people call it the new normal, but I would like to define it as the next normal because a lot of things have changed with different waves of COVID, and how various countries have been able to manage the health as well as economic impact,” said de Silva.  

Michelle Chiu, the director and head of F&B and Lifestyle at JLL Hong Kong, discussed the local F&B scene and how the city’s retail sector was “very fast to adapt”. Among the major trends her company noticed were the increase of online to offline home bakers, the introduction of gourmet dining at home and unique dining experiences, the rise of food delivery and grocery services, the expansion of small eateries and cafes in regional areas, and the creativity of big space users. Hong Kong’s F&B sector has remained quite active amid COVID-19. Moreover, the pandemic suggests that future shopping centres will involve unique entertainment features, further experiential retail, and the gradual implementation of omnichannel.  

Looking into the perspective of an F&B tenant, Varita (Jean) Patavinthranond, the co-founder of Summerbowl, shares how her business managed to survive during this unprecedented time. Some of the challenges that Summerbowl encountered were decreased customer walk-ins and increased deliveries that didn’t accommodate their products. As their main customers were expats and foreigners that have moved back to their home countries, she had to get creative and create new products to tap into new target markets. Hence, their COVID-19 management and survival involved online marketing, and re-developing products that were ready to make, easy to make at home, and easy to access and order. Jean adds that SMEs should “always be prepared for the worst” and “don’t give up”.

Duncan Stewart, the founder and chief executive officer of MenuVenu, provided insights into the sustainability of delivery service models. He said that most people do not realise that restaurants are the real losers of the current model. 

“They are put in a position where they have to use service which consumes their profits, and most of the time, consumes more than their profits,” said Duncan.  

Thus, the establishment of MenuVenu. Their platform enables and empowers restaurants to build a digital strategy, and control and support themselves throughout the whole customer journey. The e-commerce app offers a solution for F&B operators, as it builds restaurant digital storefronts for businesses, putting them in a position to drive superior customer experience, better quality, lower prices, and all-around better lifestyle service.

Duncan, who also appeared as a guest in a recent episode of the Property Report Podcast, further adds the importance of MenuVenu in being community-driven, helping restaurants collaborate and support each other in shared resources and a go-to market with their individual and unique menu options. MenuVenu allows restaurants to compete directly with popular delivery service apps on price, while also making an honest profit.  

PropertyGuru Asia Real Estate Summit launched its webinar series last year, dubbed the “Asia real estate reboot,” which was in preparation for its first virtual summit in December 2020. The new PropertyGuru Asia Real Estate Summit: Virtual Edition opens on 8 December 2021. 

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