F&B industry to innovate, adapt in the wake of virus outbreak

Azlan Othman

With the COVID-19 virus spreading globally, the Food and Beverage (F&B) industry is beginning to feel the early impacts in their supply chain, spanning their business operations, logistic service and retail to customers.

Asean Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA) President Haji Abdul Halim bin Saim, a Bruneian, said in a recent report on the retail market that investment firm CBRE observed that the number of enquiries from restaurant operators seeking information about delivery has increased steadily in recent weeks.

To that end, it believes that many F&B groups are considering boosting sales through deliveries.

“Without a doubt, delivery services and takeaways are doing brisk business. But they must observe high personal hygiene and sanitation standards. It is also timely for standard requirements to be in place – for all F&B personnel to wear face masks, gloves and have their body temperatures checked before starting work,” Haji Abdul Halim said.

He said, the pandemic has forced some retailers and F&B platforms in Asia to innovate and adapt, a trend CBRE foresees could have “long-term consequences” for the retail industry. For instance, retailers have strengthened their omni-channel presence by engaging in live-streamings and holding closed-door new product launches.

The report suggested that higher public awareness of wellness could also provide opportunities for retailers – especially F&B players – to introduce new and healthy product lines.

For F&B companies in particular, dining and fast food joints could establish ‘ghost kitchens’ or dedicated facilities to prepare food, specifically for online orders, which would allow restaurants to focus on its dine-in orders and would not impact service quality during peak hours.

Asean Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA) President Haji Abdul Halim bin Saim. PHOTO: AZLAN OTHMAN

Haji Abdul Halim lauded the Brunei Government’s move to assist the local food industry affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) recently announced interim measures to support the private sector in addressing the challenges arising from the spread of COVID-19.

These include a six-month deferment on the Employees Trust Fund (TAP) and Supplemental Contributory Pension (SCP) contributions for private sector employees earning BND1,500 and below in all sectors of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) category with employees fewer than 100; the government financing the SCP contribution of the self-employed group within the stated period as a step to help the self-employed affected by the outbreak to ensure that they will have ongoing Survivorship Fund protection.

Other measures include the provision of a 30 per cent discount on rental rates of government buildings for MSME sectors, such as tourism, hospitality (including hotels and lodging houses), restaurants and cafes, air and water transportation, to help reduce operating costs.

These measures also include the provision of a 50 per cent tax discount on corporate income tax for the year of assessment 2020 to target sectors such as tourism, hospitality (including hotels and lodging houses), restaurants and cafes, air and water transportation, to help businesses experiencing a decline in earnings during the outbreak. To obtain this facility, companies are required to submit a filing within the time frame set by the Revenue Division of the MoFE.

Additoinally, there is the provision of a 15 per cent discount on water and electricity bills; and help for the MSME through participation on e-platforms for more effective business matching, where DARe (Darussalam Enterprise) will work with a number of service providers to help merchants market their goods online. This measure intends to assist and provide opportunities and incentives for traders, in particular MSMEs to use e-platforms to operate and maintain their business more efficiently and competitively.

Others include a six-month extension of i-Ready Permit Contract Period by the Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC) especially for participants whose contracts expire before September 2020 in the public and private sectors.

MoFE also said, to support the impacted sectors and minimise disruption to economic activities, Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) and the Brunei Association of Banks (BAB), under the guidance of the ministry, recognise the important role of the banking industry and have agreed to a six-month deferment on principal repayments of financing or loan for tourism, hospitality/event management, food and beverage and air transport sectors, from April 1.

AMBD added that this deferment will be extended to food and medical supply importers to support higher cash flow required to meet the surge in demand in the country.

All bank fees and charges, except third-party bank charges related to trade and payment transactions for companies in these sectors, will be waived for a period of six months.