Even as the outbreak of coronavirus/COVID-19 continues to evolve and grow, we still don’t have a clear idea of exactly how much it will fundamentally change our entrenched, traditional behaviors. Are handshakes a thing of the past? Is working from home the new normal? Will we travel less for both work and fun?
While we can only wait to discover the answers to those bigger questions, a whitepaper from Technomic this week outlines some of the more immediate ways COVID-19 is impacting consumer behavior as it relates to how we get our food.
Technomic surveyed 1,000 consumers between Feb. 28 and March 2 and found “more than three in 10 consumers say they plan on leaving the house less often, not go to restaurants as often or not order food or beverages at away-from-home venues as often.” Additionally, of those refraining to eat out, “31 percent say that decreased frequency will last for between one and three months.”
This isn’t great news for full-service restaurants, which are already having to work harder to attract foot traffic as off-premises grows more and more popular.
You might think this decrease in on-premise eating would translate into a wave of delivery orders from restaurants, but Technomic found that of people eating out less, only 13 percent think they will order more restaurant delivery because of the outbreak.
Technomic is quick to point out that there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to the virus’ spread, so it’s too soon to tell exactly what its full impact will be. However, the survey does point out a couple of areas where the food industry could face the biggest impacts.
On the negative side, as alluded to earlier, Technomic says on-premise dining at restaurants could face the biggest downturn as people hole up at home and avoid crowds.
And while it’s weird to think of an “upside” to a global pandemic, Technomic rightly points that that if people do refrain from sitting in a restaurant to eat, drive-thrus and delivery restaurants (think: pizza) could become more popular.
Additionally, supermarkets, which have already seen a surge in panic shopping, could also see their foodservice items benefit as people grab meals while grocery shopping.
And while they don’t mention it specifically, an increase in food delivery could bring with it a boom in ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants as restaurant brands look to pare down their physical footprint and infrastructure costs.
We’ve been chronicling how COVID-19’s spread is already altering how the food industry does business — whether it’s food conferences being canceled, reducing human-to-human contact with delivery, using robots to deliver food, or Kickstarter projects being delayed.
But when it comes to this outbreak, there’s not a whole lot we can do but wait (and wash our hands!). Technomic’s survey certainly won’t be the last word as this crisis evolves, but at least it provides some numbers to help businesses prepare.