05 June 2020, 08:55 AM
  • It is clear that the pandemic will have a significant influence on rural food businesses, both short and long term. With this in mind, here are some of the key ways to protect your rural food business and drive growth during Covid-19. Words by Ava Neilson
Long and short-term tips for business survival

Take advantage of new sales opportunities
One way that COVID-19 has benefited rural food businesses is that there has been a surge in demand for groceries and fresh produce. Many people are avoiding crowded supermarkets and instead, are turning to support local food businesses.

In response to this, many food businesses have started offering food boxes and home delivery services to people in the local area. Rural food businesses should take advantage of new sales opportunities during COVID-19 and expand their products and services to meet consumer demand, especially considering that this demand may change in the long run.

That being said, you should be mindful that existing and potential customers may assume that you are closed during the pandemic. You must make an effort to advertise your business online and promote your services. Rural food businesses can use social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram as an affordable way to market their products and boost sales and revenue.

Build meaningful customer relationships
Rural food businesses often rely heavily on repeat business and customer referrals. For that reason, you must focus on building meaningful and long-lasting relationships with your customers. Keep in mind that happy customers are likely to spend more money with your business in the future and may also recommend your company to others. Food businesses can improve their customer service by providing a personal service, gaining feedback from their customers, and nurturing customer relationships by staying in regular contact through social media channels or newsletters.

Supporting sustainable practices is another easy way to improve your brand reputation, attract new customers and secure repeat business. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple ways to make your business greener. This includes switching to renewable energy, making your business digital to reduce paper waste, and storing on-site fuel in a secure bunded storage tank. Consumers are becoming more eco-conscious and there is an increasing demand for green businesses. Demonstrating your support for the environment can, therefore, be an effective way to increase sales and profits within your company.

Comply with government guidelines
It is imperative that all businesses comply with government guidelines and take reasonable steps to minimise the risks associated with COVID-19. The government has advised that food businesses should stress the importance of personal hygiene and enforce stringent hand washing and cleaning policies in the workplace.

Food businesses must also maintain the recommended two metre social distancing whenever possible. It is particularly important to follow advice on social distancing when coming into contact with customers or delivering food packages. This will help to safeguards your customers against the risk of infection and protect your company’s reputation. Food businesses can refer to the safer food, better business (SFBB) guidance for advice on the expected food hygiene practices within the workplace.

Explore financial aid
Sadly, many businesses have suffered serious financial losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, both short and long-term.

Fortunately, the government has introduced a variety of financial aid schemes to help support businesses facing financial challenges during the pandemic. For instance, the government furlough scheme can be used to claim up to 80% of furloughed employees’ wages during COVID-19. There are also a number of other schemes designed to support businesses through the pandemic. Make sure you research what financial aid is available and take advantage of any support that may allow your business to stay afloat and thrive during the pandemic.

Final thoughts
COVID-19 has caused unprecedented levels of disruption to businesses and industries all across the UK. As mentioned, many companies have sustained huge financial losses and been forced to suspend or close operations due to strict COVID-19 regulations. Fortunately, many rural food businesses have flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic with a surge in demand for their products and services. Rural food businesses should take advantage of the new sales opportunities presented during the pandemic and implement strategies to support and drive growth over the coming months.

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