Balancing safety and experience in the new-look market

Most consumers will remain sharply focused on safety despite a growing boldness about going out as lockdown restrictions ease.
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Most consumers will remain sharply focused on safety despite a growing boldness about going out as lockdown restrictions ease.


That is one of the key takeaways from the fourth and final part of CGA’s Consumer Countdown to Reopening research, which uses new consumer research to gauge how people will approach eating and drinking out in 2021. It shows the hospitality sector will have to provide rigorous hygiene measures without compromising people’s experiences in the On Premise.


The research shows well over half (57%) of GB consumers think it essential for staff to wear protective equipment in order for them to visit a venue—up by six percentage points from a similar survey in June 2020, ahead of hospitality’s release from its first national lockdown. Those considering COVID-specific medical information and the ability to pay online essential have also jumped, by nine and five percentage points.


However, the research shows that some COVID-19 safety measures may be off-putting. A fifth (21%) of consumers say testing on entry would make them less likely to visit a venue, and 15% feel the same way about the need to provide a COVID-related certificate.


Overall, more than half of consumers think cleanliness (57%) and feeling safe (51%) will contribute towards a good experience when the market reopens. But despite the focus on hygiene, other aspects of hospitality like the quality of food and drinks (57%), prices (50%) and range (44%) remain crucial too.


With just over five weeks to go until indoor service can be resumed, there are signs that consumers are starting to feel bolder about being around other people in venues. A quarter (26%) of consumers now say they would prefer a busy or lively atmosphere when out, compared to just 15% in August 2020. The number wanting to meet in large groups has more than doubled since then, from 8% to 19%.


The Consumer Countdown to Reopening research reveals important nuances in attitudes by age, with younger adults over-indexing on the value of experiential and atmospheric factors, and older ones placing more value on cleanliness and safety.


This research shows how all venues will have to walk a fine line between safety and experience when they reopen in April and May,” says Philip Montgomery, CGA’s director of client services UK & Ireland. “It is encouraging to see that consumers are increasingly confident about mixing in the On Premise, but rigorous hygiene protocols will still be needed to reassure those who remain cautious about COVID-19. On top of the crucial fundamentals like quality, price, range and service, this creates a very complex set of demands—but one that the sector is ready to meet.”


To read highlights of the fourth Consumer Countdown to Reopening report, click here.


CGA’s four-part series has numerous insights into the changes and nuances of consumers’ attitudes and behaviour as they return to eating and drinking out. To learn more about how it can help operators and suppliers understand demands and build successful strategies in the post-lockdown market, please contact


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