As restaurants begin to reopen dining rooms with the lifting of coronavirus restrictions, consumers are showing pent-up demand for in-eatery meal occasions, according to new data from Datassential.
“Restaurants are really going to be a light in darkness for people,” said Leslie Rabin, senior product manager with Chicago-based Datassential, the food industry analytics firm, in a Wednesday Nation’s Restaurant News webinar, “How Consumers Are Shifting During COVID-19.”
Among the emotions driving those prospective in-restaurant diners are: relaxation, joy and satisfaction.
“These are things that people feel … will bring them back to pre-COVID times,” Rabin said.
In surveys between March 29 and April 27, “dining at my favorite sit-down restaurant” led among proposed post-lockdown activities that most excited Datassential respondents, growing from 41% to 45% of those surveyed in the period.
“Americans are really excited to get out of their homes and into restaurants right now,” Rabin said.
When they return to restaurants, 68% would want to order something “indulgent” and 78.5% will want to order a “familiar favorite,” Datassential’s survey found.
“Restaurants remind people of their pre-COVID life,” Rabin said. “On a psychological level, they are probably excited to go back and do what they used to do.”
It will be important as restaurants reopen, if they start with limited menus in the beginning, that those establishments have historically popular items on their menus, she said, but new menu items should be in the pipeline.
“As things start to normalize out, it will be critically important to always have new things for them to try,” Rabin added. “For the younger groups, it’s especially important for Millennials and Gen Zs, who like to try new things.”
However, Rabin noted that “there is a lot of distrust right now” among consumers, adding that 72% of those surveyed don’t trust others to act responsibly when non-essential businesses reopen after the coronavirus shutdowns.
“An interesting struggle is going on,” Rabin said. “And it’s a struggle between the idea of self-preservation and our human nature for community.
“What restaurants can do is to be very transparent in what they are doing to keep their environments safe,” she said, from cleaning procedures to providing personal protective equipment for their staff members.
“We will slowly venture out,” Rabin said.
Rabin presented data during Part Two of the two-part “How Consumers Are Shifting During COVID-19” with Datassential. Both webinars are available on demand at this link.
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