‘Freedom day’ dawns with consumers confident but cautious

After nearly a year and a half of restrictions, consumers are preparing for a new normal in hospitality with a mixture of optimism and realism.

CGA’s latest consumer research shows that more than half (54%) feel confident about visiting pubs, bars and restaurants when COVID-related restrictions are lifted—but more than a quarter (27%) do not, and another 19% are wavering between the two.  

 

It is a reminder that venues will need to reassure hesitant consumers that they are in safe hands, especially if COVID infection rates continue to rise. This might well require the retention of safety measures that consumers have become used to since COVID hit, even though other people will be pleased to see the back of them. Half of consumers surveyed by CGA ahead of ‘freedom day’ would like to see social distancing between tables (50%) stay for the time being, while a third think table service (34%), PPE for staff (34%) and contactless-only payments (33%) should continue.  

 

Consumers are meanwhile split down the middle about the wearing of face masks after the official requirement to do so is dropped, with half (49%) saying they would like to see coverings continue.   

 

CGA’s research from May showed that younger adults, females and urban residents were all more likely than average to return promptly to the On Premise when restrictions eased. Ahead of the scheduled easing of restrictions in June—since delayed to 19 July—two in five (39%) consumers said they had already made plans for visits, and a quarter (25%) indicated that their average monthly spend would be higher than it was after reopenings in April and May, highlighting the opportunity for treat occasions and trade-ups as consumers celebrate a return towards normality.  

 

The consumer research shows that operators will need to balance the needs of confident and cautious consumers after ‘freedom day’. The challenge comes on top of other big issues facing the sector in the second half of 2021, including around supply chains and staffing.  

 

Consumers can see the light at the end of the COVID tunnel now,” says Rachel Weller, director of consumer research and marketing at CGA. “Lockdowns have reminded us that people crave the special experiences that only the On Premise can provide, and many people are clearly desperate to get back. But with others still hesitant, and operators facing so many headwinds, the shorter term remains more challenging, and businesses will have to identify the right level of safety precautions, for the right length of time, in the weeks ahead.”  

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