By Chris Mohney
In May of this year, Zagat opened the first Future of Dining Study in partnership with the James Beard Foundation to get a sense of consumers’ interests, habits, and concerns around the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on restaurants and dining. The study recorded 6,775 responses, which will be shared as a resource for the JBF’s Open for Good initiative. A public summary of the study’s results may be downloaded here.
As with Zagat Stories’ extensive coverage of the experiences of chefs and restaurateurs during the pandemic, these results reveal an industry rocked by major changes and challenges. Delivery and takeout understandably surged (a 19-point lift versus pre-crisis) as lockdowns closed off dine-in business. Furthermore, 38 percent of respondents had ordered nontraditional delivery items from restaurants, like meal kits, grocery, and alcoholic beverages. Even after the crisis passes, considerably more consumers (a 16-point lift for dinner alone) say they will cook more at home than they did before the pandemic.
As states and localities begin to re-open throughout the country, restaurants can expect to see smaller crowds for some time. Two in three study respondents said they would wait more than one week after re-opening to dine out—and of those, 93 percent would wait more than three weeks. Health and safety concerns are top of mind for potential diners, including desires for outdoor seating, official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, social distancing, and masks worn by staff.
Consumers emphatically expressed how much they miss the community and social aspects of dining out, both statistically and via write-in responses. Overall, dining out could actually resume at pre-crisis levels eventually—less-frequent restaurant-goers want to dine out more than ever before, which may make up for those who go out less.
The Future of Dining Study supplies the restaurant and hospitality industry with real information about how to plan through the pandemic crisis, and it arms restaurant advocates with data they can present to local, state, and federal authorities to assist in crafting workable solutions and equitable policy. Download the results summary here.