CGA takes UK consumers’ pulse on returning to pubs

People are likely to be cautious about going back to pubs and restaurants and some are far more worried than others according to new research from UK market analysts CGA which has highlighted the groups that will need the most reassuring and the occasions that are most likely to tempt them out.
"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."

“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.”

Even the most avid fans of eating and drinking out pre-Covid remain apprehensive about returning, CGA BrandTrack’s latest  data shows.

Only 29% of those who usually eat out multiple times a week say they’d be comfortable going out again as soon as Government restrictions are lifted in the UK. This compares to 22% for the adult population as a whole.

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

CGA’s survey of 5,000 consumers shows that crowds are most likely to put people off, while socialising in small groups is seen to be more acceptable.

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’ll continue to do so 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’re safe places to visit.

Over one in five adults fall into the next 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 one 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 the availability of hand sanitiser which will be essential and may convince some nervous customers to return, but far from all.

Some 64% of consumers expect tables & seats to be moved apart when a venue re-opens while 60% expect free hand-sanitiser to be available and 56% would expect enhanced cleaning protocols.

55% expect Social Distancing measures to be in place while 44% would expect enhanced food safety/hygiene procedures to have been introduced and 42% would expect the venue to offer the ability to pay contactlessly.

A similar 42% would expect limited venue capacity while 34% would expect that outdoor areas would be available and 33% expect to see improved toilet facilities.

30% of the respondents expect to see staff wearing protective equipment.

CGA’s 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 in the UK.

The occasion that most consumers would feel comfortable with is the ‘catch up with friends’ type. 64% of those that would have done so before say they’d be confident in doing it again once they’re able to.

Next, at 50%, come ‘personal celebrations’ and ‘romantic occasions’ (48%), with about half the population suggesting they’d be comfortable with these in a pub, bar or restaurant.

Conversely, the occasions for which consumers show most apprehension 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’s 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,” observed CGA’s Head of Consumer Research Rachel Weller, “‘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.”


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