The most popular thing consumers are looking forward to doing first as lockdown eases is going to a restaurant (cited by 37% of consumers), while 21% want to visit a pub or bar. The last thing they’re likely to do is attend a sporting event, according to 42%.
Further, 21% of the survey respondents said that they would eat out immediately, once able. In total, two-thirds (67%) said they would eat out within a month of restaurants and cafés reopening, while 10% said they would wait until cases of COVID-19 are nil, or a vaccine has been made available.
The survey, carried out by digital ordering company, QikServe and marketing technology provider Eagle Eye Solutions, a digital loyalty platform, explored what steps food businesses should take to provide both attract customers and provide safety reassurance as they prepare to reopen.
While there has been some public debate over whether hospitality businesses should increase menu prices to compensate for the impact of the pandemic, doing so might put off returning customers. If their favourite restaurants put up prices up post-lockdown, 26% of consumers said they would understand the need for the increase, but it would stop them eating there. An additional 14% said they didn’t think prices should go up at all – meaning a total of 40% of consumers would reject venues with higher priced menus. Less than half (46%) said a price increase wouldn’t deter them from a visit.
Asked to select the three most important ways that restaurants should protect customers dining in, once they reopen, a trio of methods stood out: 81% said they’d like to see less tables or more space between tables; 73% want the number of people within a restaurant limited; and, 40% want access to digital ordering and payment technology to minimise physical contact. Only 10% would consider food collection zones in their top three, to remove the need for waiter service. Similarly, just 13.5% selected Perspex barriers erected between tables as suitable counter measures to improve safety.
“Our research gives the hospitality industry plenty to cheer about: people are keen to go back to their favourite bars and restaurants. They are ready and willing to eat out, with the caveat that brands pay attention to their safety,” commented Daniel Rodgers, President and Founder of QikServe.
“As they reopen, anything businesses can do to streamline operations will also be well received. This is especially true of enabling customers to access technologies that allow them to browse digital menus, and order and pay at table using their own phone to safely minimise interaction with servers and handling of payment devices,” he added. “With less people in restaurants, such technologies also hold a key to unlocking extra revenue streams and increasing user spend at a time when finding additional income will be essential to survival.”
Al Henderson, Chief Sales Officer of Eagle, Eye said: “Consumer loyalty to their favourite hospitality operators and venues has proved resilient during lockdown and it’s clear that people want to return to those they trusted before the pandemic. But the steps that bars, pubs, restaurants and cafés take now, as lockdown eases will be vital to retaining that loyalty in future.”
“The survey findings demonstrate how clear digital customer communications and engagement are vital to survive beyond this crisis. That customers feel put off by brands increasing prices is naturally concerning. However, a brand can use digital to also demonstrate added value or use promotions and rewards, for example, to offset the impact of raising prices and drive trade at quieter parts of the day.”
It’s not as catchy as: ‘When is a door not a door?’ (answer, when it’s a jar) but it speaks to the idea that in-car collection, and the technologies that support it, are flexible enough to bend to the needs of a business and its guests.
Delivery can be daunting to the uninitiated, and it might be tempting to sign up with a third-party ordering aggregator that offers the service, such as UberEats, but other options could suit your business and brand better. Here we present three different ‘levels’ of delivery, starting with the most basic – and cheapest method: doing it yourself.