We don't know where the way out is. Point.
We must resign ourselves to the fact that the "experts" and leaders we usually rely on to find a guide do not have all the answers we seek.
No one has actually fully understood this virus yet, neither scientists, nor politicians, nor economists.
How can we?
In this absence of precise information we tend to stay in our comfort zone: our quiet place where we know the rules and how to move with an enviable aplomb.
In short, we feel bad, but we are comfortable.
Adapting ourselves is not always suitable.
The metaphor of the boiled frog (see N. Chomsky) explains well how every change, if sufficiently gradual, finds us unable to react.
According to the story, if we throw a frog into boiling water, it will jump out immediately, saving its life. If, however, we put it in cold water and then start to heat it very slowly, it will gradually adapt to the temperature. When the water eventually becomes too hot, it will no longer have the strength to jump out and die boiled.
How does the frog, stunned by the heat, jump out of the pot?
The key word is resilience: an active adaptation, not passive like the frog, which arises from the awareness that there is a need for strong action to get out of the pot.
Now is the time to get out of your quiet spot. You won't know what it will be like at the end of the fall, but it will certainly be a different world, with its new rules.
This is a phase in which the will to innovate and the spirit of (active) adaptation are pushed to the extreme of our natural abilities.
Even if these are qualities that every entrepreneur should have, this time we will have to push a little further because we have no no expertise to refer to, no reference pointed around.
Any strategy that we may have previously adopted cannot be applied here.
You can't go back to yesterday, you can only move ahead because what you knew no longer exists.
It will be difficult for bars to quickly return to the consumption of the past. A recent report by the International Coffee Organization (find it here) has shown how a drop in our purchasing power is also reflected in a coffee consumption slowdown, especially in the higher end of the market.
Fortunately, there is also a comforting fact: domestic consumption is increasing.
This opens up two scenarios: on the one hand, a further increase in portioned systems for consumers willing to spend a little more, often not repaid by an adequate quality (to say nothing about sustainability: another subject that is back in the news in this period thanks to the isolation and reconquest of spaces by Mother Nature).
On the other hand, the rediscovery of traditional methods such as moka and “cuccuma” (another Italian traditional coffee pot, see it here), perhaps forgotten a little too early especially by those who deal with Specialty Coffee (and fortunately taken up by leading companies in sector innovation, such as the moka from E&B Lab).
Alternative extraction systems such as Aeropress and V60 or similar are still culturally too distant for the average Italian consumer (but they are very popular abroad: among these are the next-generation ones, such as the Cafflano products you can find here).
Here, ironically, quality will play its role where we thought all of our hope was lost: in our households.
"The tradition does not consist in keeping the ashes but in keeping a flame alive."
- Jean Léon Jaurès.
Rediscovering the origins means in fact giving new life to traditions that have been neglected for too long.
But returning to the origins also means returning to the origin of your product, to the raw material, through which the new storytelling now takes place having lost its main actor, the barista.
The promotion of your place using informal socialization as an attraction for your place and propeller for your sales will no longer work as it used before.
What customers need is a perception of safety, which must be supported through the quality of the product throughout the supply chain.
Sometimes a more detailed and attractive label is enough, or an extra pampering to the customer even in the post-purchase phase, for example by proposing guidelines for the optimal extraction of your product (using the now highly inflated but always effective video tutorials).
What came out of a recent research in the Ho.re.ca sector (find the full text in Italian language here) is that most people will continue to be afraid of consuming out of home.
Now more than ever, it will be important to differentiate in a competent manner, with particular attention to the hygiene and organization of customer and staff spaces.
A watershed that will divide professionalism from improvisation.
So, put your client's new needs at the center of your space to redraw your business.
Since the ongoing distancing is the furthest point of the idea and natural function of a public place that is aggregation and socialization, a drastic and out of the ordinary change will be needed.
It’s true, the rules are still not entirely clear. You will need to wear your chameleon vest and get ready to change.
After all, big players like Starbucks are also adopting the "monitor and adapt" strategy by analyzing the surrounding environment and finding the solution that suits best your reality, the only one you will be living in.
Maybe you have not captured new customers with your delivery service and an extra smile on your social channels, but if you have kept their attention in this period, you will probably have a privileged positioning in their memory, and they will continue to choose you (to learn more, read the research here).
The “digital differentiation” card can be applied: knowing how to distinguish yourself from the crowd (mostly medium-low end) can be the winning move. A combined strategy between promotion campaigns on social networks and a well-built e-commerce site could be a proof of success (considering also the low interest for the giant Amazon in the sector).
The question now is not whether or not it will be possible to regain our "old life" in the coming years.
The coffee sector has always proven to be cutting edge, fast and capable of adapting to any situation, even extremely dramatic. Just think about Espresso culture which is considered to be part of our life ever since, yet it started just at the beginning of the last century.
The focus now will be responding proactively to changing circumstances and proposing a new normality, appropriate for the “new world”, the new customer needs and ourselves.