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COVID-19: Impact on Dining Out

While the cancellations of sporting events and, closer to home, foodservice-related conferences continues to make headlines, foodservice operators from all industry segments will need to come to grips with consumer concerns caused by the rapid evolving pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus. As a result of the coronavirus, nearly 60% consumers are now concerned about eating out and roughly 1 in 5 consumers have definitely avoided doing so, according to a study by Datassential.

In fact, 89% of consumers surveyed by the Chicago-based research firm feel safer eating food prepared in their homes or from grocery stores as compared to meals prepared away from home. Consumers show concern about contracting the COVID-19 virus in a variety of venues that prepare food outside of the home. While cruise ships have drawn plenty of headlines in their own right, other venues of concern for consumers include arenas/stadiums, movie theaters, buffet restaurants, bars and clubs, cafeterias and food courts or food halls, per Datassential’s research.

As a result, 69% of consumers say they are more likely to cook at home, per Datassential. In contrast, 54% of consumers say they are less likely to dine out in restaurants. And 16% of consumers say they are less likely to order food for delivery and 12% say they are less likely to order for carry out. “Note that much of this is rooted in simple logistics – one trip to a restaurant typically yields just one meal, whereas a single trip to the grocery store can fuel a week’s worth of eating,” Datassential notes in its report.

When asked what might increase the risk of attracting the coronavirus, consumers had a long list of concerns including touching door handles in restaurants (78%); self-serve food such as salad bars, buffets, etc. (77%); using public restrooms in restaurants (74%); sitting in a crowded restaurant (69%); self-serve drink stations such as fountain drinks, coffee carafe, etc. (68% ); sharing condiments (64%) and sharing food at restaurants (63%).