Dining In Restaurants Nowhere Close To Pre-Pandemic Levels

Nevin Barich

Nevin Barich

December 15, 2021

I’ve been out to eat maybe five times since the pandemic started. Five times, that’s it. Each time, I’ve been outside because the idea of eating indoors still frightens me. And even when I’m outside, which is supposedly safer, I find myself looking at the surrounding tables every 30 seconds making sure they’re still socially distant enough from my table.

Before the pandemic, I ate out at least once a week, usually via a date night with the wife or meeting a friend for a meal. And every time, I never thought much about it. I didn’t think about my safety; I didn’t think about getting sick; I didn’t think about pandemics or face masks or my health or the health of others around me. But now, even with the vaccine and the booster, I can’t help but pause and ponder at even the thought of going out to eat once in a blue moon, let alone at the frequency I dined out before the pandemic.

Most Americans feel the same way, according to a report by Deloitte entitled: “The Restaurant of the Future: A Vision Evolves.” According to the report, 64% of U.S. consumers do not plan to return to their pre-pandemic habits of dining in restaurants within the next six months. Because of that, according to the report, convenient off-premise dining has emerged as a permanent fixture in the restaurant experience, with 61% of consumers ordering takeout or delivery at least once per week, up from 29% in the year-ago period and 18% prior to the pandemic.

"It's been said that the only constant is change, which holds true for the restaurant industry today, said Jean Chick, principal for Deloitte Consulting. “The pandemic has accelerated the progress of the restaurant of the future, calling for fundamental shifts in business models to meet new demands. Now, amid continued pressures in areas like supply chain, safety-related costs, and labor availability costs, restaurants should work strategically to build loyalty among on-premises and off-premises diners. Those that can quickly adapt and meet diners' evolving demands for convenience, frictionless digital experiences and safety can be poised to not only survive, but thrive."

Other findings from the report include:

---Demand for frictionless digital experiences continues to rise in popularity, with 57% of consumers who order takeout or delivery preferring to use a digital app, while 67% of on-premise diners prefer to order their food digitally.

---One-third of consumers say enhanced cleanliness and safety protocols are important in returning to on-premise dining sooner and more frequently.

---Sixty percent of customers expect the same quality and freshness in delivery and takeout as they do in the dining room.

---Consumers order from quick service restaurants (QSRs) most often at 62.6%, followed by fast-casual restaurants at 52% and casual dining establishments at 40.5%. Spending at QSRs also is up more than 100% year-over-year.

Nevin Barich is the Consumer Products Analyst for Industry Intelligence, which can help YOU better address your own industry challenges. To arm yourself with the latest market intelligence, contact ClientCare@IndustryIntel.com. Ask us about our interactive intelligence map and search bot on Microsoft Teams.

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