Consumer Confidence Down, But Vaccines Signpost Road To Recovery

Consumer confidence about eating and drinking out has dropped by ten percentage points since October, CGA’s first 2021 Hospitality Consumer Forecast reveals—but the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines provides cause for optimism when the sector returns.

CGA’s latest consumer research indicates that just over a third (34%) of GB consumers would feel very or quite confident about visiting pubs, bars and restaurants if they were permitted to open now. It is a sizeable drop on the figure of 44% in CGA’s October survey, and leaves half (51%) of consumers saying they wouldn’t feel confident about going out at the moment.

The research highlights widespread consumer concerns about the impacts of the pandemic. More than three quarters (77%) are worried that life will not return to normal in 2021, and four in five (80%) are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on the health of themselves and their family, up by four percentage points from November. Nearly four in five (78%) are concerned about the financial implications of the pandemic—an increase of five percentage points over the same period.

However, the research also points to times when consumers’ confidence about going out in the on-trade might return. The reopening of education is likely to be one trigger, and virtually equal numbers say they will be confident (34%) and not confident (35%) about visiting the on-trade when schools welcome children again.

Confidence levels are set to jump much higher when those who are considered vulnerable to COVID-19 are vaccinated. At this point, nearly half (47%) of consumers think they would be confident enough to visit the market again. These figures remain the same at the point when pubs, bars and restaurants can open normally—a sign that confidence is as tightly linked to vaccine roll-out as it is to restrictions in the sector. The final stage on the roadmap to higher confidence is the point at which consumers themselves are vaccinated—when 59% say they would be confident.

With COVID-19 infections running at such high levels in recent weeks, it is inevitable that many consumers feel anxious about going out. However, with vaccines now available, we can at last see some light at the end of the tunnel,” says Charlie Mitchell, CGA’s research and insight director.

“The road to recovery is still long, and hospitality faces the huge task of reassuring consumers about their safety when the market reopens. But this is a challenge to which the sector rose magnificently in the summer, and we know that it will do so again this year. With confidence so closely tied to the roll-out of vaccines, and so much pent-up demand for going out to eat and drink, we can be optimistic that footfall and spend will return as 2021 goes on.”