Confidence Returning as More Consumers Return to Pubs, Bars and Restaurants

More than half of British consumers have now returned to the sector, with 55+ age group growing in confidence about eating and drinking out.

CGA’s latest bi-weekly Consumer Pulse survey reveals that 55% of those who ate out at least once every six months before lockdown have gone back—up by ten percentage points from two weeks earlier. Numbers have been boosted by growing visits in Scotland and Wales, where the sector reopened later than England but where nearly half (49%) have now been out—up by 15 percentage points since the last Consumer Pulse survey in late July.

Younger adults have led the return to pubs, bars and restaurants, and two thirds (67%) of 18 to 34 year-olds have been out to eat and drink after lockdown. But there are signs that older consumers are growing in confidence after initial anxiety too, since half (48%) of those aged 55+ have been out to eat and drink now.

CGA’s latest survey suggests that operators are finding the right balance between safety and experience for guests. Three quarters (73%) of consumers said they felt safe during their visits, and another 23% neutral. Two in five (42%) said their visits had exceeded their expectations—compared to just 7% who felt that experiences fell below what they hoped. It follows news in the last Consumer Pulse survey that people’s expectations are rising as they settle into the new normal of eating and drinking out.

But the poll also emphasises the fragility of consumer confidence. Two thirds (68%) of consumers are concerned about localised lockdowns, which could disrupt the fresh momentum of out-of-home eating and drinking. Among those who are yet to return, two in five (43%) say they still don’t feel safe around other people.

It’s encouraging to see the 55+ age group in particular returning to the sector, and the Eat Out to Help Out initiative will have accelerated the return of a hesitant wave of consumers,” says Charlie Mitchell, CGA’s Research and Insight Director. “It shows that business are able to give guests a good experience without compromising safety precautions—but with so many people still anxious about going out, there is no room for complacency in the weeks ahead.”