Our friends at Aviko recently ran a consumer survey to ask the public their thoughts on the reopening of the hospitality sector to provide restaurants and pubs with key information to make your reopening as successful as possible.
Spanning cuisine types, planned frequency of visits, and health and safety concerns, the survey garnered over 4,000 responses from the Great British Public, who are chomping at the bit to enjoy some pre-Covid freedoms.
Restaurants and Pubs Reopening – Focus on Meals
It appears as though the public have really missed dining out during lockdown. 59 percent of respondents said they were really looking forward to a meal out with the family, closely followed by 48 percent of people eagerly anticipating a meal out with their partner, and then 41 percent stating a meal out with friends is on their bucket list.
With a large percentage of people looking forward to a meal with their family it’s important to make sure you are catering for all their needs. Make sure to have a good children’s menu, enticing vegan and vegetarian options, and go all out to ensure your customer’s first visit is truly special.
About vegan and veggie options, although they are the minority, a family or group of friends with one meat-free diner will be influenced by their choice.
The public are missing what they couldn’t get delivered
When asked what cuisine type consumers will be ordering on their first visit to a pub or restaurant after the reopening of the hospitality sector and there was one resounding winner. Pub grub! Pub food had double the response to its nearest rival, with 60 percent of people craving traditional pub dishes.
Analysing the response and the psychology behind this choice, it seems as though rather than ordering the food that has kept consumers satisfied during lockdown, namely burgers and pizzas, they are looking for food and experiences that they have missed, think rich steak and ale pies and roasts.
The response from our survey, other than pub food, was varied, with Indian, Italian, and Chinese all in demand. The spread of the votes shows that the public have missed a wide range of different cuisines and expect that once one craving is satisfied, consumers will seek out other foods.
Consumers will eat out more often than pre-pandemic times
In Aviko Restaurants and Pubs Reopening Survey, consumers were asked, in the first few months after the reopening of pubs and restaurants how often do you intend to go out to hospitality venues? The results, when compared to 2019 figures from a survey run by Kitchen Stories, show that people will be venturing out more frequently.
96 percent of people stated they intended to go out at least once a month, which is a point down compared to the 2019 figures. However, breaking this 96 percent down further, 27 percent (+9%) of people said they intended to go out weekly, and 20 percent (+12%) said they would go out more than once a week. International data and insights company CGA have research to back this up, in their Consumer Countdown to Reopening Series, 39 percent of GB consumers said they plan to visit hospitality venues more than they did in 2019.
The hospitality sector certainly appears to be set for a major bounce back, assuming restriction easing goes as planned. How long this boom will last is unknown, but the fact foreign holidays are less likely in 2021 and many of the middle classes have excess savings due to the past 12 month’s inactive spending, this boom could last several months. Make sure you’re out there getting in front of potential customers to entice them to your venue.
People are ready for the reopening of pubs and restaurants
Aviko couldn’t run the hospitality sector reopening survey without a Covid-19 related question to gauge the public’s feelings on their own personal safety. From the response it appears consumers are ready to get out and enjoy life once more by revelling in the service and fares that pubs, cafes and restaurants offer.
89 percent of people were either not worried at all, or were comfortable with masks and social distancing measures in place, for their dining out experiences. Only 6 percent said they wouldn’t be going out until the virus numbers had come down, and a little over 6 percent said they would only be eating and drinking outside.
Over half of respondents to the reopening survey said they were comfortable with masks and social distancing measures, so it would be wise to detail on your website and occasionally on your social media channels the measures you are taking to give your customers peace of mind.
Quality food and service rank number one with customers
When asked to rank factors of importance when visiting a pub, café, or restaurant, consumers overwhelmingly chose quality of food as their number one priority. Second and third place were close, with quality of service narrowly trumping safety. The CGA Consumer Countdown to Reopening Series also backs this consumer mindset up with 44 percent of consumers surveyed stating that something that is of good quality is perceived as value for money. Bringing in the rear of the Aviko survey were available deals in fourth place and lastly being able to personalise your meal.
The importance ranking provides you with a basis for what to communicate and prioritise to customers. Mentioning locally sourced ingredients and highlighting the loving care you’ve taken to create your menu are very important. Likewise, make your service sparkle, if you’re using a reservations system, ensure communications are friendly and welcoming, as well as prepping your team to make your customer’s smile.
Finally, although the Government has issued guidelines for Covid secure reopening, make sure you detail what measures you’re taking to customers who may still be a little apprehensive about visiting your establishment.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all of them?
As you might have expected, dinner is the mealtime that most of the survey respondents said they were looking to enjoy when the hospitality sector opens its doors. 74 percent of people said they are intending to go out to dinner, followed by 56 percent planning to enjoy lunch out.
Brunch and breakfast received 13.5 and 12.5 percent of votes respectively and snacking out received 8 percent.
What can we understand from these figures? There are opportunities when combined with the frequency of monthly trips out for consumers, so making sure you cater to all those needs is important. Focus on the areas relevant to your customer base, with dinners, can you add specials for different days to pick up early-week trade as well as the end-of-week custom. Although receiving a smaller survey response, breakfast and brunch offer good opportunities, with people working from home more frequently, are there business breakfast/brunch services you could offer for mid-week diners?
Customers rekindling lost loves
The public were asked ‘when planning your first visit out again, how will you decide where to go?’. The results were a case of consumers yearning for what they’ve missed; 94 percent of people stating they’ll go someone they know and love.
12 percent of people will make a decision based on friend and family recommendations, 6 percent social media, 3 percent Google, and 1.5% TV and advertising.
It’s no surprise that people will go somewhere familiar. However, look past that first visit, the craving for new and exciting will soon take over as illustrated by the next question.
What would make customers dine out more often?
Meal deals (53%) and discounts (51%) came out top here, but that is an obvious response and not sustainable for profits. The interesting responses, coming in third and fourth, were trying somewhere new (42%) and seeing new dishes (42%). That’s a large section of the public who will be looking for new food and drinks and new places to visit in the coming months.
The numbers illustrate the importance of making sure you let prospective customers know about your establishment and your food. Where do your customers get their inspiration from? Is it social media, Google, word-of-mouth, reviews? Experiment with your available channels, spend small amounts on social media advertising focused around your area and track the results to see what works for you.
Meal deals and discounts do not seem relevant in the first few months after lockdown ends. The numbers in this survey show that consumers want to be out there enjoying their freedom so giving away profit isn’t needed at this time. Revisit meal deals and discounts at a later date and see if you can use them for quieter times.
Once you’ve got your customers in the door, consider a loyalty scheme as 32 percent of respondents said that would make them dine out more often. Keeping customers happy and loyal is easier and more profitable than winning new ones.