Consumers Return to Restaurants as Stay-at-Home Orders Ease

Consumers Return to Restaurants as Stay-at-Home Orders Ease

COVID-19 Primary Research Series Part 6

Consumers are beginning to return to restaurants as restrictions ease, according to Week 12 of Glanbia Nutritionals' ongoing research on the consumer impact of COVID-19. Learn about the recent changes in consumers’ eating behaviors, their outlook on the future, and what it could mean for the food industry.

Consumers Shifting from At-Home Cooking to Eating Out

As states across the country start to lift COVID-19 restrictions and consumers try to regain a sense of normalcy, restaurant eating is regaining traction. The results of our Week 12 consumer survey show a direct relationship between consumers’ decreases in cooking at home (down six points) and increases in eating at restaurants (up five points) over the prior week. The amount of time consumers are spending at home has likewise decreased (by three points) during the same time period.

As stay-at-home orders are lifted in stages around the country, consumers who are tired of cooking at home are looking to restaurants to provide a change of pace and inject some excitement into their routines. In addition, consumers in many communities are interested in supporting local restaurants to help them overcome recent economic challenges caused by COVID-19. 

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Consumer Activities and Interactions Still Affected but Improving

While some might be quick to say life is returning to normal, our data shows that consumers continue to be somewhat affected by the impacts of COVID-19, though this is on the decline. On a one-to-five scale, with one indicating no restriction on activities or interactions and five indicating a complete lockdown in the home, consumers in our Week 12 survey report a 3.37 level of impact on average. This is a marked improvement over the high of 3.9 reported in Week 2. However, it still indicates that most consumers are practicing social distancing when possible.

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Consumers’ Outlook on the Future

To gain insights on when we might expect consumers’ behaviors to fully return to normal, our survey also explored consumers’ perceptions about the future. The results show the vast majority of consumers believe it will take months, not weeks, before it will be safe for them to resume normal activities. Thirty-one percent anticipate this will happen in the next few months, while 24% believe it will be by the end of the year. Nineteen percent of consumers think it will be next year at the earliest.

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Looking Ahead

With summer here, many consumers are happy to get a taste of normalcy by eating out, but some remain cautious of jumping back into their normal routines until the number of COVID-19 cases decreases more. 
With a range of measures implemented by restaurants to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission, from sanitation protocols to outdoor-only seating, consumers are beginning to venture out to their favorite restaurants once again. 

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However, we still have a long way to go before restaurant dining returns to normal levels. Occupancy limits and a good dose of caution by consumers will keep growth in check for some time. Restaurants will rely on suppliers more than ever as they update their menus, both to draw in consumers and reduce their costs. Retail food purchases (both in-store and online) are likely to remain high until the foodservice industry recovers.
For more insights into consumers’ changing perceptions and behaviors around food during these uncertain times, contact Glanbia Nutritionals

Read part 5 - How Changing Consumer Diets May Impact Food and Beverage