Covid-19 and Consumer Dining Attitudes [Survey]

Originally Published: July 6, 2020
Last Updated: February 4, 2021
Young woman wearing face mask while serving takeaway breakfast and coffee inside cafeteria restaurant - Worker preparing healthy food inside cafè bar during coronavirus period

A gift experiences website, Truly Experiences, ran detailed surveys on dining trends conducted with 1,000 U.S. and 300 U.K. consumers during May and April 2020 to determine how Covid-19 was influencing consumer dining attitudes. Its purpose was to give restauranteurs important insights into market and consumer trends impacting their business during Covid-19 and to help them look toward the future.

Everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lock-down measures and the hospitality industry has taken one of the hardest knocks of all. The findings are summarized as follows.

Key Highlights
● Three out of ten Britons planned to eat out immediately after lockdown restrictions were lifted.
● Millennials (Generation Y) and Generation Z were the likeliest to patronize re-opened bars and restaurants.
● One in five UK citizens expected restaurants to charge higher prices than before.
● One in four people in the United States survey expects higher restaurant prices.
● One in four US citizens said they would only feel comfortable eating out if a proven COVID-19 vaccination was found.
● Nine out of 100 US citizens do not plan on going out to a restaurant again this year.
● Over 50% of the United States citizens surveyed said they would only feel comfortable fining out if they saw the number of COVID-19 cases dropping.

Click to view survey with chart

Cases Must Reduce for Restaurant Trade To Resume

In June 2020, all 50 U.S. states started reopening following lock-down. However, after some experienced a spike in new cases, the reopening process was paused with a few states actively reversing the action as they reverted to a previous higher state of restrictions. For one example, Texas closed its bars again. The changeability largely reflects attempts to balance financial and health concerns.

Like other countries around the world, the United States is attempting to restart the economy. However, governors are also feeling pressured to respond to a public that remains, largely, very anxious. The survey showed that the majority (51%) of US citizens would need to see coronavirus cases dropping before they’d be happy to eat out, but 42% said all they needed was for the lock-down to lift. Some 9% don’t expect to eat out until 2021.

Click to view survey with chart.

A New Way Of Eating Out Required

A significant 85% of Americans expected diners to be seated farther apart and 67% believed that waiters would be required to wear gloves. Restrictions on dining party sizes were expected by 65%, and 25% thought food would have a higher price tag.

Other expectations included single-use menus, Plexiglass shields between booths and hand sanitizer on every table.

These statistics are a hopeful indication of US citizens’ enthusiasm to start eating out again. They reflect an understanding of the measures required by a post-pandemic world. The fact that just 28% needed a vaccine to be found before visiting a restaurant shows that most people feel the precautions would be enough.

An Age Divide In Opinion

The beliefs and responses of various age groups were differentiated and examined to provide additional insights into restaurants’ and bars’ target demographics.

The younger generation (42% of Gen Z) was more eager to eat out as soon as possible in the UK, while older citizens (19% of Gen X and Baby Boomers) were a little more hesitant.

Similarly, just 8% of Gen Z believed they’d have to wait until 2021 to go out compared to 33% of British Gen X and Baby Boomer responders. The opposite situation was seen in the US, where 13% of the 18-24 age group expected to eat out immediately following lock-down, as opposed to just 21% of the 55-64-year-olds.

While the same percentage of Britons and Americans said they’d dine out if they could (13%), the population distributions were quite different. In the UK, the high and low percentages of younger and older people balanced each other out, while in the US the numbers in the two groups were quite similar – although the older citizens were still twice as eager.

Core Survey Takeaways

United Kingdom eateries should, in theory, be targeting the younger generations for most of their revenue. In the United States, the picture was a little different; young adults have a higher spend per head but were less likely to go out immediately.

Now with the reescalation of lockdown in some states and pausing on reopening in others, the situation may have changed. Since revenue from takeout orders is more secure, restauranteurs should continue trying to expand their range and price points on these items.

Additionally, when they do reopen, venues should expect design changes to incorporate social distancing that not only adhere to regulations, but reflect Covid-19 and consumer dining attitudes.

Guest Blog Contributor:

Truly Experiences
Tower Bridge Business Complex, 100 Clements Rd
Bermondsey, London SE16 4DG
United Kingdom
+44 203 890 3248

Truly Experiences is an online gift experience company aiming to divert the gift-giving market from material items to activities and memories. Since 2012, they’ve been creating dreams-come-true experiences for customers all around the world.