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Half of consumers expect restaurant operators to absorb costs related to COVID-19 measures: report

And nearly half of consumers won’t be dining out anytime soon

A new report reveals that nearly half of consumers won’t pay for the additional costs borne by restaurants to follow safety protocols and local ordinances related to COVID-19. According to foodservice consultancy Technomic, a total of 49 percent of consumers say restaurants should absorb the cost of coronavirus measures; however, 23 percent would pay for these through menu price increases. Thirty-percent would rather pay a surcharge.

Many restaurants have been serving customers in their dining rooms as restrictions have been lifted. According to Technomic’s latest COVID-19 update, many restaurants are finding new roles for staff in their operations including greeters, traffic monitors, bouncers. “Enhanced janitorial duties,” creating sanitation specialists, have become new realities. As part of this new future, restaurants are adopting contactless ordering and payment processes.

Yet, customers are still hesitant to return to diners en masse. Only 16 percent had dined at a restaurant during the week beginning May 24. And 17 percent say they would do so within the next couple of weeks, while 23 percent would dine out in the next couple of months, a 4 percentage-point increase from the previous week. Unfortunately, 44 percent don’t plan to dine at restaurants anytime soon.

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Another troubling sign is the number of customers not visiting a restaurant in the past week (beginning May 18). Thirty-eight percent had zero restaurant visits that week, a fairly consistent portion of consumers since the end of March.

Perhaps in solidarity with restaurants, consumers have been decreasing third-party app delivery for the past two weeks, while increasingly ordering directly from restaurants online or through their own apps. Continued media coverage of the excessive third-party app fees that independent restaurant operators pay may be a contributing factor. In addition, overall awareness of cities capping these fees, including San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, and Washington, D.C., is on the rise.

As more workers return to downtown areas and business districts, restaurants should gain a sales lift. But not all workers will return, as some work-from-home personnel may make that change permanent, notes Technomic. There’s some reluctance to return to the previous status quo. Many restaurants will rely on daytime daypart occasions, such as lunch business, to return to pre-pandemic sales levels, and that business may be off permanently.

Photo credit: Dewi Ika Putri

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