The purpose of the study is to analyse if and how micro and small firms in the food and beverage service industry adapted and revised their business models in light of resilience in order to face the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first chapter explores the construct of resilience in its different fields of study. As a matter of fact, the term was originally introduced in the context of ecology, and it was subsequently extended to other fields such as social-ecological systems, psychology, organisational studies, business and management. Resilience is considered particularly valuable for organisations that have to face uncertain environments and external shocks, such as natural disasters. In this context, resilience has been conceptualised by scholars either as the ability of a firm to bounce back – i.e., to return to its original conditions after having faced a disruptive event – or as its ability to bounce forward, so being capable of absorbing the change, turning it into an opportunity, and evolving into an improved, strengthened, more resourceful organisation. In the field of business and management, resilience has been applied in different contexts, among which we can find the adaptability of business models.
Business models – which are the topic covered in the second chapter – do not have a generally accepted definition in the literature, causing a certain degree of fragmentation. In the past the economic scenario was stable, and companies could sustain their position overtime since they were allowed to consider their business models more or less immortal. However, today’s competitive environment is particularly turbulent and – in order to survive and respond to external disruptions – companies have to develop the ability to adapt and revise their business models. Therefore, business model adaptation represents a means for companies to keep pace with the external rapidly changing scenario, or a potential defence strategy to respond to external threats or turbulences, such as natural disasters.
Natural disasters are addressed in the third chapter, together with the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on the Italian economic fabric, especially considering the food and beverage service sector. Pandemics are slow-onset disasters – as opposed to rapid-onset ones – characterised by the extensive geographic spread of a contagious disease. Starting from late 2019, Covid-19 – which was firstly identified in China – spread all over the world and it was declared a pandemic in March 2020. The virus had – and still has – a disastrous impact on both health and economy all over the world. The Italian economy has been severely hit by deaths, lockdowns, restrictive measures, and a substantial drop in demand, with 45% of Italian enterprises that were forced to completely suspend their activities for months. The food and beverage service sector is among the most deeply affected industries, with a total turnover that in 2020 has almost halved with respect to 2019.
The fourth and last chapter of the work describes the empirical investigation performed, which aims at analysing business model adaptation of MSEs operating in the Italian food and beverage service sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. The investigation is composed of a qualitative analysis – implemented through semi-structured interviews with 12 owners of bars and restaurants – and a quantitative analysis, which was conducted by administering a structured questionnaire to 139 firms in the food and beverage service sector. Results and conclusions are drawn.