Big Will Not Be Beautiful When Reopening Pubs And Restaurants

People are cautious about going back to pubs and restaurants, and some are far more worried than others. New research from CGA has highlighted the groups that will need the most reassuring – and the occasions that are likely to tempt them most.

Even the most avid fans of eating and drinking out pre-COVID remain apprehensive about returning, latest CGA BrandTrack data shows. Only 29% of those who usually eat out multiple times a week say they would be comfortable going out again as soon as Government restrictions are lifted, compared to 22% for the adult population as a whole.

For drink-led occasions, the impact appears less marked, with 37% of people who drink out multiple times a week saying they would be comfortable in resuming visits to pubs, bars and restaurant as soon as restrictions are lifted.

Crowds are most likely to put people off, while socialising in small groups is seen to be more acceptable, the survey of 5,000 consumers shows.

In-depth analysis of the data has highlighted four distinct eating-out groups that will need to be addressed in different ways.

The first group, biased towards younger consumers, requires the least convincing to return to previous habits. These are consumers who used to eat out at least monthly before lockdown, and they say they will continue to do afterwards. They make up 19% of the population.

The second, and largest group, is made up of those who previously ate out at least monthly, but who will now only return to the market with caution, totalling 45% of the adult population. But they will be persuaded to come back if businesses are able to demonstrate that they are safe places to visit.

Over one in five adults fall into the fourth group of consumers who suggest they may significantly decrease how often they eat out. These consumers, who make up 21% of the population, used to eat out at least monthly, but now say they will return far less frequently – highlighting the potentially lower demand within any “new normal” even among once regular customers.

The final group contains those who previously ate out less than monthly and who suggest that they will not change that frequency, equating to 1 in 20 adults.

These groups highlight the probability of decreased footfall post re-opening, even with precautionary measures, such as distancing between tables, enhanced cleaning protocols and availability of hand sanitiser, which will be essential and may convince some nervous customers to return, but far from all.

The research also reveals the occasions on which the population would be most and least comfortable going out once pubs, bars and restaurants start to open up.

The type of occasion that most consumers would feel comfortable with is to ‘catch up with friends”, with 64% of those that would have done so before saying they would be confident in doing it again once they are able to.

Next come “personal celebrations’ and ‘romantic occasions’, with about half the population suggesting they would be comfortable with these in a pub, bar or restaurant.

Conversely, the occasions for which consumers show most apprehensions are those associated with large crowds and capacities, with 62% of consumers who previously went out to music concerts or gigs saying they would not feel comfortable doing so even once restrictions are lifted.

‘Watching sporting events’ and ‘nightlife and late-night occasions’ follow as the occasions where there is the least confidence. ‘Business meetings’ also appear within the list of top five occasions that the public would feel apprehensive about.

“These consumer predictions also highlight a potentially polarising impact on day-to-day life. ‘Everyday occasions’ appears in both lists as an occasion that consumers would feel comfortable with but also one that consumers would not feel comfortable with, perhaps suggesting that, while for some consumers a regular drink or bite to eat may be considered too risky to be worthwhile, for others getting back to normality is a priority. It may be that people will simply be happier with the familiar, such as people they know, “ observed CGA’s Head of Consumer Research Rachel Weller.