Americans Continue To Eat Mainly At Home During Coronavirus Pandemic

September 15, 2020

March 15, 2020.

That was the last time I stepped into a restaurant. It was at an Arby’s in Barstow, California. A few friends and I were driving home from a “guys” weekend in Henderson, Nevada, and the final tradition on these trips is to stop in Barstow for an Arby’s Beef ‘n Cheddar or a Super Roast Beef sandwich.

That meal had a weird feeling to it. My friends and I were out of town on the weekend that the world seemingly went to hell due to the coronavirus. Businesses and pro sports leagues were closing down. Supermarkets were out of paper towels, toilet paper and bottled water. Cities were beginning to launch mandatory curfews. That weekend, we felt like we were in some kind of bubble as chaos reigned, but as we drove back home we knew we were heading into the fire. That meal at Arby’s was our last stop before we entered the fray. And even though we were heading into the unknown, the one thing we felt for certain was that this would be the last dine-in meal we’d have for a while.

Six months later, I’m eating all of my meals at home, and according to a report from Acosta—a sales and marketing agency in the consumer packaged goods industry—more than half of Americans are doing the same. The report states that 55% are eating at home more often since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Forty-four percent of shoppers are eating breakfast at home every day, compared to 33% pre-COVID; 31% are eating lunch at home every day, compared to 18% pre-COVID; and 33% are eating dinner at home every day, compared to 21% pre-COVID.

"With more than half of consumers eating at home more often and some with less money to spend, there are a myriad of challenges and opportunities for retailers and manufacturers to navigate," said Colin Stewart, executive vice president of business intelligence at Acosta. "The implications of staying at home and reduced commutes are far reaching and jolted channel trends. Foodservice sales surpassed retail food & beverage sales in 2015 and were expected to continue to gain share, until the pandemic hit. Now, even the best-case scenario for foodservice will end the year in the red. Other trends, like e-commerce, have been accelerated, with online food, beverage and alcohol spend expected to increase 30% this year."

Other findings from the report:

A quarter of shoppers are sick of having to cook more, while 35% of shoppers found a new passion for cooking during the pandemic.

The biggest challenges shoppers reported when meal planning are: grocery shopping because of the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in public (45%); planning different meals every day (40%); lacking a food/ingredient needed to make a meal (38%); and improving cooking skills (17%).

As for post-COVID?

After the pandemic is over, many diners anticipate eating out less than before or not at all. Forty-seven percent plan to eat breakfast out less often or not at all, 33% of shoppers plan to eat lunch out less often or not at all, and 29% plan to eat dinner out less often or not at all.

I can’t say for certain exactly what my eating habits will be when the pandemic is over. But one thing I am sure of: It’s going to be a long time before I stop thinking twice about eating out.

Nevin Barich is the Consumer Products Analyst for Industry Intelligence, which can help YOU better address your own industry challenges. We invite you to come take a look at our service. Call us today at 310-553-0008 and we’ll schedule you for a 15-minute demo.

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