Consumers Happy To Head Out From 12 April

With less than a month to go before hospitality starts to resume trading, CGA’s new Consumer Countdown to Reopening Series research shows a widespread determination to get back to restaurants, pubs and bars—even if it means sitting outside.

The series of four reports draws on CGA’s latest consumer research and a special additional survey to uncover consumers’ attitudes and help businesses plan for outdoor reopening in England from 12 April. The first report, available now, finds that three in four (76%) consumers are likely to visit a venue with outdoor seating within a month of reopening. A third (33%) plan to get back within a week, and 12% intend to return on the first day they can.

That leaves a quarter (24%) of consumers who aren’t likely to return until at least 17 May, when venues can trade inside again. This group are put off in equal measure by not wanting to sit outside (40%) and a desire to avoid crowds (39%)—though the majority plan to return either when indoor seating is available (21%) or when eating and drinking out feels normal again (59%). By June, four in five (81%) consumers in England say they are likely to be back in the market.

However, a significant number (41%) of those not returning before mid-May say they don’t plan to visit venues for a long time yet. It is a reminder that venues still have a job to do to reassure guests about safety, even if consumers have become more confident about going out in light of the COVID-19 vaccine programme. Managing bookings and walk-ins and keeping up hygiene and distancing protocols will all be important if venues are to persuade these cautious consumers back.

The success of outside openings may well depend on the weather from mid-April, and the use that operators can make of their outdoor space. RISE, CGA’s outlet and location targeting tool, can help identify outside trading opportunities, and suggests around two in five sites in England have some outdoor space that could host guests.

It’s very encouraging to see that so many consumers are keen to get back to hospitality, and willing to sit outside so they can do so,” says Rachel Weller, CGA’s head of consumer research and marketing.

“Businesses that can meet the needs of these outdoor eaters and drinkers should get a useful kickstart to sales ahead of fuller reopening in May. Just as importantly, these five weeks provide an excellent chance to reassure all consumers that it is safe to eat and drink out again.”

The Consumer Countdown to Reopening data reveals very similar patterns of consumer sentiment in Scotland, where hospitality operators have a provisional reopening date of 26 April, two weeks after England. There are frustrations about Scotland’s delay, with a quarter (24%) of consumers there thinking the approach eases restrictions too slowly, compared to 16% in England.