We're going back to school, and that time always feels like the beginning of something new and exciting. In honor of that atmosphere, we sat down with one of our favorite market forecasters, Bunmi Okolosi, founder of Kajola, to ask about his predictions, insights and his latest projects. Bunmi has been working as an international consultant for Hospitality, Food & Beverage companies for over 6 years. His company Kajola is committed to helping start-ups, scale-ups and corporates become successful businesses! Bunmi is also co-founder and moderator of our KR Academy program, which has helped launch +30 start-ups over the past 4 years.
So tell us, what are your predictions for the coming fall and winter months within the industry?
The struggle with staffing will continue, for most people well into next summer. I think labor methods and practices will have to change for business owners. They will have to do things like reduce hours, increase wages, reduce services and, most importantly, use the necessary software tools to streamline their operations.
In New York, for example, large restaurant groups have had to be very creative to stay competitive with how they seek and hire staff. So some restaurants started offering a signing bonus. If you sign a contract with these companies, you get an immediate bonus and you get to keep it if you stay employed there for 9-12 months. Hospitality has to come up with creative tactics to stay competitive.
Interesting! And what else?
I suspect there will be more people volunteering for a brand because they believe in it and/or want to start improving their experience with it. I also think mental space and enjoyment will drive more people's decisions than before COVID.
Since COVID, what new opportunity in food do you think is notable?
We will start to see more of the 10-minute delivery groceries (such as Gorillas and Flink). This responding to the need of convenience for consumers will only grow faster in the coming time. Although the COVID restrictions had many drawbacks, people will still want to use aspects of the relaxed, on-the-go services that cater to people's needs.
Of course, there will be consolidation in that market as well. Companies will not all be able to compete together in this market forever. Eventually AH and Jumbo will start to see what part of the market these flash delivery companies have taken from them and probably by next summer they will try to take them over. This is already happening in Spain and Italy.
Speaking of dark kitchens. How do you think this model will continue to evolve?
Those will certainly remain, no doubt, but what is a more interesting question is what will the volume be? Will it stay the same as it is now or will the volume decrease? I think it decreases because people like to go out, we all want to go out again. What you will start to see more of within delivery and dark kitchens are more the customized experiences. Home dining experiences, like Rijks and Ron Blaauw's rice table, offer people a great dining experience in the comfort of their own home.
Do you have any advice for all those people who are still hesitant about starting a new business in food in today's world?
I would advise people to think carefully about several things. Do you understand the market and do you know well who your customer is? Cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht already have a lot to offer and are very competitive markets. So if you don't know your target market well enough, it will be difficult.
Yes, seize this opportunity, but do your research well. Know which people fall into your target audience, what their habits are, where they store, what they like, what they dislike, what content they watch online and offline, etc. This way you can reach them and let them know who you are, get it? Unless you have one of those great products that are quickly discovered by influential influencers and trend spotters, it's going to be tough. Tourism will come back, but that's a long way from where tourism was before COVID. I predict it will take up to 2 years to get back to pre-COVID revenues.
Do you have any tips for creating target personas?
At Kajola, we use a "buyer mentality matrix" - using this method, there are 2 persona types: a buyer or a maker. A buyer is someone who prefers the efficiency of buying to making something from scratch, while a maker prefers the exact opposite. And within those personas, there is also a classification of a Maximizer or Satisfier. A Maximizer prefers the best dining experience, not just a satisfying dining experience. This categorization alone could help you determine how to approach people and how to sell. We use and perfect this method in our work with major industry players such as: Unilever, Nestle, Dr. Oetker, etc.
Where do you see a lot of potential for both the foodservice and retail sectors to dive into?
Partnerships. They are the most cost-effective to use on a daily basis and avoid having to exert excessive effort to make extra sales. Everyone, in one way or another, is looking for a partnership with a lower threshold so that it is a new environment that benefits all parties involved.
Can you tell us more about your participation in a new initiative called Melting Pot?
Yes, Melting Pot came about because of my involvement with Joris Bijdendijk, Lowfood Movement, conversations at Clubhouse and by working with other top sector leaders who want to see a bigger push for diversity in the Dutch market. We are just at the stage of developing our action plan and our mission is:
'Melting Pot' is a group of hospitality professionals with the initiative to create a more diverse representation within the hospitality industry in the Netherlands. This idea was born out of the realization that diversity within the industry is underrepresented and misrepresented on multiple levels. Melting pot would like to change that. Normalizing a multicultural Dutch cuisine and highlighting the right people can only help and enrich the industry, creating a more representative and therefore a tastier and finer culinary landscape.'
Sounds very good. Have you seen any expansion and push for diversity right now?
I have developed an impact fund through which we focus on finding investors who really care about diversity in hospitality, food and drink and can't wait to invest their money in the right things. I'm talking about investing in LGBTQ and people of color businesses, giving them the opportunity to grow and be seen. I'm working on a big deal right now with this dark female hotel owner who embodies exactly what I think should be seen and celebrated today. Now I think it's time to talk about diversity. The work that Mitchell Esajas is doing at Black Archives has created so much awareness about racing and created momentum. Really, it's about having these discussions so that you make room for more diversity. My team always talks about supporting "companies of tomorrow" and what that means to be a company of tomorrow: people, planet and profit are the foundation for what you want to achieve.
These 3 P's are important regarding the people part, and this means that we need to think and help and support all people and that the market is not diverse enough right now. All people should have the same opportunities to develop. My impact fund is not just about money, but also offering people of color or LGBTQ businesses more guidance in a market where they are shut out.
Do you feel that here in the Netherlands we are changing like in the States or France?
Definitely not. It feels like we are mentally in a cocoon here. But you have to remember that the Dutch are in their third generation of chefs, as with Joris Bijdendijk, Denis Huwaë or Sidney Schutte who are pushing to pave the way to the culinary landscape beyond their predecessors. If you look at immigrant families here, they are only in their second generation of chefs. Probably their parents started their food business in the 60-70s, and those second-generation kids still want to keep their parents' mindset and approach: "Dutch people love our food, they do us a favor." And with mindset they think or feel the need to break away from the Dutchified, often boring, spicy variety not enough. This is not only in the food industry, but also in many other sectors, such as politics. Did you know that the first dark-skinned female founded political party leader (Sylvana Simons) only entered the Dutch government this year? Don't get me wrong, Dutch people love the flavors and will often go to restaurants and eat what they know, but by having open conversations more often, we can raise awareness and break down barriers.
Bunmi, thank you so much for this open conversation with us and we hope many more will follow!
For anyone interested in learning more about Kajola, be sure to visit their website and feel free to contact them through their media channels. The Kajola Guidance Program has already started. They work with startups, scale-ups and corporates to help with all facets of what all levels of business need.