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53 pct of consumers are dining in restaurants less often: Acosta

The Why? Behind the Dine report reveals consumer preferences related to off-premises, COVID, safety

Fifty-three percent of consumers are dining in restaurants less, according to a 2021 The Why? Behind the Dine report issued by Acosta, a sales and marketing agency. The research, powered by its CORE Foodservice business unit, also indicates that 27% of diners are ordering carryout out more often, and 23% of consumers are selecting the drive-thru more often.

In addition, the The Why? Behind the Dine, which uses online surveys conducted by Acosta in August, indicates that about half of consumers are more comfortable eating out now that vaccines are plentiful. However, many consumers are still concerned about rising COVID-19 infections and could stop eating out, or may switch to carryout and delivery 100% of the time. Another 23% of diners say they will eat out regardless.

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“It is no secret that COVID-19 upended foodservice, but the industry is expected to rebound within the next three to four years,” said John Goodman, chief executive of CORE Foodservice. “Research by Technomic indicates restaurants and bars are likely to recover as early as 2024, due in large part to diners’ increased interest in finding high quality, safe and cost-efficient alternatives to home-cooked meals. The road to recovery will be difficult however, as restaurants now face significant operational challenges caused by widespread labor shortages and rising food costs.”

Consumers are looking for variety, and they welcome someone else doing the cooking for them.

Key findings:

  • Over half of consumers (51%) say they go out to eat when they do not feel like cooking. Most of those eating out do so at least twice a month (60-70%)
  • Eighty-two percent of consumers say they are looking for restaurants that offer a wide variety of menu items when eating out
  • A total of 82% of consumers say they are interested in trying new items when eating out
  • When eating out, 81% of consumers choose items that are on special
  • When dining at restaurants, a majority of consumers order seafood dishes (35%)
  • When ordering carry-out, most keep to classics like pizza and breadsticks (69%)
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Having an online presence has become even more important in today’s environment. A total of 58% of consumers use online tools when planning to eat out.

As the pandemic continues to impact the industry, restaurants are facing shortages of product. Meanwhile, consumers expect restaurants to hold to strict COVID-19 standards. More than half of diners say they want continued COVID-19 safety precautions in place at restaurants, including mask requirements for kitchen and wait staff. Additional findings by Acosta as follows (full report here):

  • Seventy-five percent of diners want tamper proof or safety-sealed packaging when ordering carry-out or delivery
  • A total of 32% of diners want single-serve condiments
  • Twenty-nine percent of diners want plastic wrapped utensils
  • Consumers are keenly aware of rising food costs, with 44% of diners noticing higher menu prices
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