Consumers’ Safety Fears Ease, But Expectations Rise

Rigorous precautions are satisfying more people that it is safe to visit pubs, bars and restaurants—but returning guests are becoming more demanding as they settle into the ‘new normal’ of eating and drinking out.

Those are the top findings from the latest data for the ‘We Hear You’ survey, which was launched by CGA, Yumpingo and UKHospitality to gauge the opinions of consumers returning to hospitality after lockdown. Nine in ten (89%) have been satisfied with safety measures in the venue they visited, while two thirds (64%) of guests in the last two weeks say they have felt relaxed—a leap of 15 percentage points on the last fortnight’s figure (49%).

The survey has signs that people who were previously hesitant about going out are now feeling confident enough to return. Two in five (40%) customers who completed the survey in the fourth full week since reopening (28 July to 3 August) said they were out in the sector for the first time since lockdown. More than a third (36%) were visiting their particular venue for the first time—suggesting that consumers are also growing more willing to try new places after their initial caution.

Safety remains front and centre of people’s minds, and four in five (79%) say they considered COVID-19 precautionary measures when choosing their venues. But there are also indications that consumers are becoming less tolerant of below-par experiences that they might have forgiven in the early days of reopening. Net Promoter Scores have dropped from an average of 78% in the first week of hospitality’s return to 63% in the fourth week. It is a warning that some repeat visitors are becoming harder to please as they step up their out-of-home eating and drinking.

Perhaps the most challenging demographic for operators to reach is older people, who have been more vulnerable to COVID-19. The We Hear You survey shows that Net Promoter Scores for 55+ year-olds are notably lower than the average, and this age group is more likely than most to feel that their experience has been affected by safety measures. They are also more inclined to feel that precautions are not communicated clearly enough.

It is very encouraging to see that consumers’ nerves about eating and drinking out are easing, and that reflects the hard work that operators have done to demonstrate they are safe places to visit,” says Rachel Weller, CGA’s Head of Consumer Research and Marketing. “After an initial flurry of enthusiastic diners and drinkers we are now seeing a more hesitant wave of consumers stepping out, and businesses will need to stay extra vigilant on their precautions and communications. With expectations rising fast, it is going to need a very careful combination of safety, experience and value to steadily increase repeat visits and spend.”a