Once restaurants begin opening for sit-down dining again in the United States, what percentage of people will swiftly head to their favorite dining establishment? What percentage, fearful of catching COVID-19, will stay at home?
A survey from CivicScience investigated those questions. It found 39 percent said they planned to go to a restaurant within a month. Another 41 percent said within one to five months, and 20 percent said six months or more. The survey received 44,718 responses from people in the United States age 18 and over, and it took place April 9-22.
“It’s going to take some time even if restrictions were limited,” said Susan Schwallie, executive director of food and beverage consumption for the NPD Group, a market research and consumer insights company. She spoke in an April 24 webinar organized by The Center for Food Integrity.
“There’s a lot of conversation now about reopening, but clearly there’s not a lot of unity about when and where it’s appropriate to reopen,” Schwallie said.
When restaurants will reopen could vary by state level, county level and city level, she said. A county may say restaurant restrictions will lift on a certain date, but a city municipality within the county could say restrictions will lift on another date.
Foodservice transactions in the United States for the week ended April 17 were down 36 percent when compared to the same week in 2019, Schwallie said. The percentage decline was better than the 43 percent decline for the week ended April 10.
Schwallie said she had no data on why the percentage improved. Perhaps Americans receiving checks from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act had an effect, she said.
“I don’t know if it’s because (restaurants) have set up more curbside and takeout in this channel of casual dining, but there are some things going on here,” she said.
Georgia lifting restrictions on in-restaurant dining could have an effect, and other states are planning to lift restrictions, too.
“Expect this to be a rollercoaster, though,” Schwallie said. “Openings will be up and down, and restrictions will be different in every state.”
She gave data on China’s restaurant business as well. Foodservice revenue in January fell by as much as 60 percent in China when compared to the same time of the previous year. It was down 55 percent in February, but the percentage decline improved to 38 percent in March.
“They are further along on this restart than we are,” Schwallie said. “Talking about this, by no means am I implying that we are going to have the same restart because for so many reasons we are different.”
In China, coffee shops, tea shops and bakeries are almost back to pre-COVID-19 levels, she said.
“I think what makes a lot of sense about that is that people are going back to work,” Schwallie said. “That’s part of your routine. You have a connection to a part of the day and a routine, and there’s less commitment to stopping by and getting a beverage than there is to sitting down for a meal.”