Majority Of UK Consumers Still Uncomfortable With Eating Out, Amid Industry Calls To Extend EOTHO

The majority of UK consumers are still uncomfortable with eating out, according to the latest EY Future Consumer Index, amid the hospitality sector’s calls for the Government to extend the Help Out to Eat Out scheme, which is due to end on Monday 31st August.

The survey of over 1,000* UK consumers found that only slightly more than a quarter (27%) of the British public is comfortable with eating in a restaurant even as restrictions ease, and 54% say it will take months or longer before they feel comfortable. A smaller percentage of respondents (23%) report feeling comfortable with going to a bar or pub as restrictions ease, and 45% say it will take months before they feel comfortable, while 9% say it will take years.

Comfort levels have increased since the June EY Future Consumer Index, which was conducted before the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was announced. In June, only 19% of UK consumers felt comfortable with eating in a restaurant, while 17% were comfortable with going to a bar or pub.

Christian Mole, EY UK & Ireland Head of Hospitality & Leisure, comments: “The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been a welcome intervention which has undoubtedly boosted both revenues and morale across the hospitality sector, but has only been in place for a limited time to a limited effect. It’s clear it will still take months before the majority of consumers feel comfortable with eating out so it’s not surprising that businesses are calling for an extension to the scheme beyond 31 August.”

In the wider leisure sector, less than a fifth (18%) of UK consumers feel comfortable with going to a theatre or cinema and a similarly low proportion (17%) feel comfortable with exercising in a public gym. Thirty-eight per cent feel comfortable with going to a hairdressing salon or spa.

Christian Mole added: “While there has been an undoubted benefit from increased summer staycation activity in lieu of overseas trips, the hospitality and leisure sector has significant concerns over the level of likely autumn demand, which risks threatening business viability for some. Once the peak summer season and related high leisure traffic is over, many businesses will come under renewed financial pressure, particularly as the furlough scheme comes to an end and tough decisions on headcount need to be made. While social distancing measures continue to limit capacity, ongoing government support will be crucial for recovery.

“Continued working from home will mean that take-out and eating-out demand alike in city centres remain at very low levels, and a return to anything like previous commuting levels seems very unlikely in the short-term. Decreased levels of business travel and continuing restrictions on inbound tourism are also placing considerable pressure on the hotel sector, and we anticipate a struggle for many operators to achieve profitable occupancy levels for the foreseeable future.”