While restaurants slowly begin to reopen for dine-in guests in Arkansas and most nearby states, consumers are not eager to rush back, according to a national survey by Piper Sandler.
The two-part survey conducted in April and May found just 47% of respondents are likely to visit their favorite restaurants as soon as they reopen, well below the 60% who said they would do so in the April survey.
The group surveyed had an average age of 44 and an average income of $78,000, and 90% were abiding by stay-at-home orders.
Under phase 1 of the reopening plan outlined by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, restaurants can only open 33% of their capacity, expanding to 67% in phase 2, which has been pushed back from May 18 as more COVID-19 cases have emerged.
Jan Kniffen, a retail consultant with J. Rogers Kniffen Worldwide, told Talk Business & Politics the restaurant industry cannot survive for long at just 33% or even 67% capacity. He said curbside pickup has helped some chains produce revenue, but the costs associated with staying open have also risen.
Approximately 50% of Piper’s survey respondents said they were visiting restaurants for drive-through or pickup. Food delivery was happening an average of 2.6 times per week versus 2.4 times prior. Pizza, hamburgers, and Mexican food were among the most popular delivery items during COVID-19.
Marketing Firm NPD Group reported U.S. restaurant chain transactions improved for the past four weeks ending May 10 as states gradually reopened. NPD said total restaurant transactions were down 23%, a slight improvement from the 26% decline the prior week.
Nielsen also conducted a survey of consumers in Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and Texas as the states began to reopen. This survey found just 10% of respondents had already returned to a dine-in establishment for drinks, while 21% said they had dined out at a restaurant since the reopening. Many consumers are still wary of returning to on-premise establishments, with 31% saying they will return to bars and restaurants only when they see a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Nielsen asked the 71% of respondents who hadn’t returned to on-premise dining and drinking establishments why they’d held off thus far, and 48% said they needed more time to feel comfortable visiting on-premise establishments, 47% said they do not feel safe going out, 47% said they worried about their proximity to strangers, and 24% said they were self-isolating.
Concern about finances was the not main reason consumers were staying away, as just 12% said they have less disable income and 4% said they have lost their jobs, despite the rising unemployment rate. About half – 51% – of the respondents said they would like to see additional hygiene programs within the establishments and restaurant staff wearing protective gear such as masks and gloves.
Nielsen found 70% of is respondents have placed a food delivery order, just 12% has placed an alcohol order.