More than half of U.S. consumers (60 percent), are comfortable with the idea of dining out at a restaurant, according to new data from tech intelligence firm Morning Consult. The new data is part of a Morning Consult series on when consumers “will return to normal activities” put on hold by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Restaurants, of course, have weathered some of the biggest disruptions to “normal activities” of any business type over the last year. That includes full shutdowns of indoor dining (and outdoor dining, in some cases) and a lowered confidence from consumers that restaurants are safe places to eat. Morning Consult notes that in 2020, the number of consumers who said they felt safe dining out never rose past 42 percent.
The latest report’s finding that that number has jumped to 60 percent suggests more consumer confidence in the restaurant dining room. Meanwhile, 15 percent of those surveyed said they “think they’ll feel comfortable within two to three months” and 73 percent said they will be comfortable dining out in six months.
For now, there is still at least some reservation. Comfort with dining outdoors (e.g., patio) is still much higher than comfort with indoor dining — 69 percent versus 57 percent, respectively.
Eating in restaurants took the number seven spot on Morning Consult’s list of activities consumers are eager to try once the pandemic is under control and the economy reopened. Going on vacation, resuming a “normal routine,” and going to the movies were among the activities that clocked in ahead of restaurants.
However, of these top seven activities, eating in restaurants has the largest share of people already partaking. Twenty-four percent of respondents already dine in restaurants, compared to 10 percent going on vacation or 6 percent going to the movies. Morning Consult notes that excitement around restaurants in particular spans generations.
Worth thinking about for the future is how much tech will play a role in providing higher comfort levels at restaurants. For example, will QR code-based ordering/payment technology, which lessens the amount of server-to-customer interaction, actually make people feel safer? Or will technology’s job be more about making operations more efficient and accurate? For at least a while, it will do a little of both. As more consumers grow comfortable with eating out, it’s main role will likely be around efficiency of the business, rather than simply making people feel more at ease in the dining room.