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Growing number of consumers expect restaurants to adopt safety measures: Technomic

Ongoing popularity of takeout also solid call to action for restaurants

Consumers continue to embrace the convenience and safety of food for takeout. Recent findings also reveal more consumers are looking for safety measures when dining at restaurants. Plus, the ongoing popularity of takeout, whether in delivery, pickup or drive-thru, continues to present a call to action for restaurant operators as it relates to providing and solidly-executing off-premises business.

According to foodservice consultancy Technomic, 68 percent of consumers have visited a restaurant drive-thru, 63 percent have ordered carryout and 48 percent have used curbside pickup. Its weekly Industry Insights report also finds that third-party delivery continues to be popular, coming as the fourth-most used format (45 percent of respondents).

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With the pandemic still ongoing and COVID-19 cases hovering around the 40,000-mark in the summer, it’s easy to see why dining at a restaurant indoors comes in sixth on the list, with 41 percent of consumers have patronized a restaurant in this manner.

Quite notable is the difference in responses as consumers are broken out by age groups. Younger consumers have embraced dine-in formats more readily, as Technomic notes, because they are less susceptible to complications from COVID-19. A total of 55 percent of consumers ages 18 to 34 have dined at restaurants indoors, which is 14 percentage-points higher than their older counterparts. The younger demographic has dined at restaurants outdoors more, as well: 52 percent compared to 38 percent of older adults.

Consumers seek out measures that will help them feel safe when they dine-in at restaurants, according to Technomic’s survey collected Q3 quarter-to-date. The top action they expect restaurants to take to make them more comfortable is to have fewer tables and/or greater distance between them (62 percent of consumers). The next thing they expect to see is a restriction on the number of diners, with 59 percent of consumers saying so.

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A total of 48 percent of consumers say they would like to see fewer self-service stations, like salad bars and coffee-finishing bars. Rounding out the actions that will appeal to consumers are restrictions on self-serve beverage stations (45 percent of respondents) and contactless delivery (42 percent). Each of these have grown in importance between Q2 and Q3 QTD by 12 to 19 percentage-points (more consumers looking for them). This signals more consumers are embracing safety & risk mitigation, not fewer.

[Related article: National Restaurant Association responds to CDC report suggesting link between dining out and COVID-19]

As evidenced by the organic volume case drop among the largest US foodservice distributors during this second quarter, there is a real decrease in demand for foodservice business overall. Now, that drop goes beyond restaurants and reflects the broader foodservice category. In a summary, Technomic reports that Sysco saw a year-over-year drop of 42 percent in case volume overall and a 39 percent decrease from independent restaurant operators. All 3 (Sysco, US Foodservice and PFG) saw case volume declines between 34 and 42 percent. Read more about these insights in Technomic’s Industry Insights.

Photo credit: Louis Hansel (featured preview image)

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