The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest-hit areas of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants, bars and pubs have not been allowed to serve sit-down customers for several months now.
But even when this sector is allowed to reopen, how soon can we expect it to become busy again? How will consumers’ eating out habits and behaviours change in a post-COVID-19 world?
To provide restaurateurs key insights into the market and consumer trends post-COVID-19, we ran two surveys, one in the US and one in the UK. The results revealed several key discoveries regarding future dining habits and expectations from consumers for the hospitality industry.
- 3 in 10 Brits are looking to dine out immediately after lockdown
- Generation Z and Millennials are the most likely to visit restaurants and bars when they re-open
- A third of Brits aged 45 and older don’t expect to eat out until next year
- 1 in 5 Brits expect higher prices at restaurants
- 1 in 4 Americans only feel comfortable dining out if a vaccine is found
- 9% of Americans don’t plan on dining out at a restaurant again
- More than half of Americans would need COVID-19 cases to be dropping to feel comfortable to dine out
- 1 in 4 Americans expect higher prices at restaurants
When Will Brits Dine Out After Lockdown?
While UK residents are eager to eat out, they expect this to only be in a few months. 33% of Brits plan on visiting a restaurant or pub in the next few months, while 31% said they would be dining out immediately after lockdown is lifted. 14% think they will be eating out in a few weeks, compared to 12% who claim that this will only be next year.
Only 4% of respondents don’t plan on dining out after the lockdown at all.
British Government Needs to Give Green Light
They may be looking forward to a dining experience outside their homes, but this doesn’t mean they feel comfortable to do so right now. Only 13% say that they feel comfortable enough to dine out if they could.
The majority (62%) would only feel comfortable visiting a restaurant or pub once the government says it’s okay to do so. 43% said they would be happy to eat out when the number of cases is dropping, compared to 26% who say that a vaccine needs to be found first.
Brits Expect a Different Dining Scene
Just as many aspects of our daily lives will change in a post-COVID-19 world, UK residents are expecting the dining scene to change. 72% are of the belief that diners will need to be seated further apart. 46% expect waiters to be wearing gloves and masks and over half of Brits expect there to be restrictions on group dining.
Nearly a quarter expect their temperature to be tested before entering the restaurant and nearly a quarter are expecting to be to receive a reduced menu.
When Will Americans Dine Out After Lockdown?
The majority of Americans (67%) think they will be dining out in the next few weeks and months. 43% expect this to be in a few months and 24% think it will be in a few weeks. Only 9% expect it to be next year and just 4% won’t be dining out at all.
Americans Need Cases to Be Dropping
In terms of what it will take for the US population to feel comfortable before they eat out, the number of cases dropping ranks as the most important requirement. 51% say a drop in cases will make them feel comfortable, followed by 42% who would be happy to visit a restaurant once lockdown is lifted. 38% need a vaccine to be available first, while 28% only need a vaccine to be found.
Only 13% of respondents said they would visit a restaurant now if they could.
Americans Expect a Different Dining Scene
As in the UK, Americans are expecting their dining experience to change post-COVID-19. A significant 85% expect that diners will be seated further apart. 67% expect waiters to be wearing gloves and 65% believe there will be restrictions on group dining. A quarter of respondents expect higher-priced food.
Other expectations about dining out after COVID-19 include single-use menus, hand sanitizer at every table and Plexiglas shields between booths.
The Age Divide
The sentiments of different age groups were examined, providing further insight into the demographics that restaurants and pubs in the UK and the US can expect to see.
In the UK, the younger generation is more eager to eat out as soon as they can, while the older population is more hesitant. Interestingly, the opposite is apparent in the US – older residents appear less fearful and would eat at restaurants now if they could.In the UK, 42% of Gen Z said they will be visiting restaurants and pubs immediately after the lockdown on restaurants has been lifted, compared to just 19% of Gen X and Baby Boomers. Similarly, 33% of Gen X and Baby Boomers think they’ll have to wait until next year, compared to just 8% of Gen Z.
The younger population are also less dependent on a vaccine to feel comfortable. 15% of the 18-24 age group said they would need a vaccine to be available before they would visit a restaurant again, compared to 26% of those aged 45 and older. This marks an 11% difference between the age groups.In the US, 13% of those aged 18-24 expect to eat out immediately after lockdown compared to 21% for the 55-64 age group. The older generations of Gen X and Baby Boomers are less dependent on a vaccine to be found before they would eat out.
12% of those aged 45 and over would need a vaccine to be found to feel comfortable, compared to 17% in the 18-24 age group. Although both age groups appear to be reluctant to eat out now if they could, Gen X and Baby Boomers are twice as likely to eat out if they could compared to Gen Z.
When restaurants in the UK re-open their doors, they may be looking at having younger generations as their predominant customers. This insight is a positive finding for the British restaurant industry.
According to another survey by Lightspeed, Generation Z and Millennials are more likely to dine out at least once a week, compared to those 45 and older, who are more inclined to dine out on a monthly basis. Generation Z and Millennials are also most likely to reach for their wallets: nearly half of those (49%) who spend over £250 per month are under 35.
The US tells a different story. While young adults are also among the most frequent customers with a higher spend per head, they’re less likely to dine out immediately after lockdown. Those aged 55 – 64 are most eager to visit restaurants as soon as they can, which could signal a shift in customer demographic for restaurants in the US.
The 2020 Dining Out After COVID-19 Survey polled approximately 300 consumers in the UK and 1000 in the US, with the goal of generating a deeper understanding of consumers’ dining behaviour and preferences. The survey was conducted from April to May 2020.