2020 is coming to a close and it is finally time to move forward. 2019 ended with predictions around the growing market share of online retail and the increased frequency of off premise restaurant sales. All of those forecasts were correct, yet no one could have predicted how we have arrived here. Last year the word COVID-19 would have meant nothing and now it is difficult to read an article or finish a conversation without the word being brought up at least once. It would be impossible to talk about 2020 without the pandemic and the historic election that occurred during it, however we have come a long way since March. The adversity faced this year has been great, yet the resolve shown by every industry has been greater. People and companies have pivoted business models that showcased the kind of ingenuity that will fund the future.

The shutdowns that were instituted in March effectively ground most industries to a halt. There was hope that these shutdowns would be short, however we have yet to see everything fully reopen. There was initial confusion over which businesses qualified as essential and it was uncharted territory for anyone that had to temporarily close their doors. Thankfully many industries did not wait around for everything to return to normal and instead leapt into action developing new strategies that would be viable in an ongoing pandemic. Restaurants used closed dining rooms as ghost kitchens and began selling surplus supplies like hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Retailers began using their stores as warehouses and prioritized online sales. The titans of the retail and restaurant industries like Walmart and Chipotle certainly flexed their muscle during the pandemic and have positioned themselves for growth in 2020. An unforeseen benefit of this innovation is that it acted as testing grounds for new technology and safety procedures that smaller companies may be able to take advantage of.

Many companies were able to stay afloat by quickly pivoting, although they were met with new challenges as the year went on. Outbreaks at processing plants caused meat shortages that forced restaurants like Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers to trim their menu and come up with new products. Many restaurants also built outdoor seating to fit CDC guidelines and developed their own delivery systems when third party fees grew too high. Retail stores had to deal with shortages of essential items and had to find new ways to meet consumers like curbside pick-up and same day delivery. Even manufacturers got creative as they developed plexiglass barriers, signage to support social distancing, and turned breweries into hand sanitizer operations.

The pandemic has presented a vast array of challenges and that trend will likely continue into the New Year. The rollout of a vaccine has provided a helping hand to many on the frontline, nonetheless it will not make COVID-19 disappear overnight. A new presidential administration will take office in January and it will bring new policies for businesses and pandemic relief. Business owners must remain vigilant and continue to create solutions rather than wait for them to arrive. The amount of innovation in 2020 is impressive when we consider how quickly these changes had to happen. The possibilities in 2021 seem endless now that these same pioneers have had months to shape the future.