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Hygiene and social distancing important to returning diners

Almost two thirds (63%) of British consumers say they will return to restaurants, bars or cafes in the first month of re-opening, however, hygiene and social distancing will be crucial in attracting them back.

The results of The NPD Group’s second COVID-19 British Foodservice Sentiment Study sees three quarters (76%) of consumers stating good hygiene will be a more important factor in choosing a restaurant than before the lockdown. The same percentage say they want to see strict rules to ”prevent contagion” and 74% prefer restaurants that can ”guarantee social distancing”.

The NPD survey shows a clear majority of consumers still approve of the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown of foodservice. In March 2020, 62% of respondents agreed with the policy and this has now increased slightly to 64%.

When foodservice lockdown has ended in full, foodservice operators will want to encourage people in older age groups to enjoy food and beverages prepared outside the home. Delivery is already popular among the 18-to-34 age group (with 59% using this channel), but patronage dips to 32% in the 35-to-54 age band and tumbles to just 13% for the over 55s, an age group in which people might feel more vulnerable than others when they leave home.

Dominic Allport, insights director (foodservice), The NPD Group, said: “The majority of people in our survey plan to return to restaurants, bars and cafes within a month of lockdown ending, but in order to do so, they’ll need to trust operators to offer safe environments from the get-go.

“Our data shows that consumers were already acutely aware of cleanliness in eating out establishments before COVID-19. As the industry moves towards reopening, operators will need to make this a top priority in order to encourage people back into their operations. I’m certain operators will be successful in creating the high level of trust that consumers want on-premise. Understandably, there will still be some people who are reluctant to go out. Operators can build this into their channel strategy and encourage more people to try delivery, especially older age groups.”

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