Despite the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, the recovery in the foodservice industry remains promising, but challenging. While event venues, universities, cafeterias and hospitality are still struggling, drive-thrus and takeout are flourishing. In-house dining also is experiencing a comeback.

“Considering the number of population dense areas of the country still under some form of restriction, we believe the storm of demand is just beginning to brew,” Mark Marcucci Jr., national director frozen, Alpha Baking Co., told Baking & Snack for its August trends report. “Even in markets already considered open, there are still significant segments that haven’t returned to their normal operations, providing additional cause for further increased demand as markets fully open up.”

The US Census Bureau Advance Monthly Retail Trade & Food Services reported April 2021 sales increased $16.9 billion from the drop in 2020 and were up $1.1 billion from 2019. Cordia Harrington, chief executive officer, Crown Bakeries, said she has seen the greatest rebound in quick-service restaurants.

“Anything tied to events, catering, hospitality and attendance has continued to be soft,” she said. “With the return of fans and full attendance to stadiums, students returning to campuses and the stabilization of the labor market, we are optimistic these segments will also return to pre-pandemic levels.”

Though new product activity was on the backburner during the pandemic, Mr. Marcucci believes menu offerings will quickly become more robust as restaurants begin fighting for share.

“That will drive the need for differentiation, driving the need for product development,” he said.

That’s promising news for the baking industry as well.