Going out to eat is a favorite activity for many families and friends, but the COVID-19 pandemic prohibited most people from dining out for several months. As case numbers began to stabilize, state governments eased restrictions, allowing quick-service restaurants to reopen partially or with outdoor seating. With the uncertainty of the virus, eating establishments should strive to understand customer attitudes about restaurants during the pandemic to make meaningful adjustments.
A technology company that provides real-time consumer insights at the pace of the on-demand economy, Toluna investigated customer actions, predictions, and feelings about eating out in a "New Normal." Here, we deliver an overview of our report to help the quick-service restaurant industry move forward.
Using the Global Consumer COVID-19 Barometer and QuickCommunities solution, research experts uncovered qualitative insights into how consumers felt about dining out during the pandemic. Overall, people look forward to eating at restaurants, with the most interest in bars and pubs, casual dining, and fast food. Additionally, those who regularly went out to eat before the pandemic will be the first to visit sit-down establishments, while people who infrequently ate out originally will wait before dining out again.
While pandemic lockdowns presented the opportunity for families to enjoy home-cooked meals, many people craved eating out for the novel experience. Specifically, restaurants have social features hard to reproduce in home settings. For example, the ambiance and menu options are often unique at each establishment. People can also try new dishes at restaurants they might not know how to cook at home.
Although frequent diners are enthusiastic about returning to sit-down establishments, many expressed concern over the health risks of being seated near restaurant staff and other patrons. The following examples are specific reasons people are worried about dining out:
Fears about contracting the virus through shared surfaces, such as tables and condiment holders
Uncertainty over staff compliance with current health safety guidelines
Other customers not taking the virus seriously and ignoring state or establishment requirements
Antsy child patrons who are less likely to obey mask mandates or social distancing
Overall, customers need reassurance from the quick-service restaurant industry that they will develop protective measures before reopening their doors. Enhanced sanitation, enforced social distancing, and limited-capacity seating are tangible steps towards a safer dining experience for all.
COVID-19 has significantly impacted the quick-service restaurant industry, making it critical for owners to show staff and patrons their commitment to an enjoyable and safe dining experience. From new product development to menu board testing, Toluna provides restaurants with numerous innovative solutions to make them stand out against the competition. Schedule a demo with us today to learn more about the Toluna Start intelligence platform and how it can positively impact your establishment.