Repeat visits key as half of consumers return

Nearly half of English consumers came back to pubs, bars and restaurants in the first three weeks after lockdown, CGA’s latest Consumer Pulse survey reveals.
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Nearly half of English consumers came back to pubs, bars and restaurants in the first three weeks after lockdown, CGAs latest Consumer Pulse survey reveals.

The second edition of the survey, based on a nationally representative sample of 747 consumers, provides the sharpest insights yet into people’s attitudes to the on-trade since it reopened on 4 July—and shows that while consumers’ confidence remains patchy in places, they are gradually returning to the sector. It shows that 47% of English consumers have now been back out—a jump of 12 percentage points on the number who returned in the first ten days of hospitality’s relaunch.

Some consumers have reengaged with the out-of-home market with enthusiasm, and one in six has visited more than four times. Half (52%) of visits in the first three weeks of reopening have been to pubs—partly because more pubs have reopened than restaurants. However, there are signs that visits to restaurants are rising, with the number out solely for food-led trips up by two percentage points since the last survey, to 22%.

There are also positive indications of recovery in Scotland, where well over a third (38%) of consumers returned in the 12 days following the sector’s reopening on 15 July. Businesses in Wales, which can resume indoor trading from 3 August, will now be hoping for a similar kickstart.

The survey suggests that operators’ careful precautions are reassuring consumers about their safety. Nearly three quarters of consumers say they felt very safe (27%) or quite safe (44%) on their visits—up by eight percentage points on the previous Consumer Pulse poll.

But while hygiene remains the paramount concern, value and experience are increasingly important drivers as people settle into new routines. And with three in five (60%) of the English consumers who have been out only making one or two visits, the survey points to the big challenge for operators of encouraging repeat visits.

This group of light visitors have a variety of reasons beyond safety for not going out—including because they haven’t had an occasion to do so (29%), are waiting for things to return to normal (21%), or are trying to save money (17%). Many may also have grown accustomed to lockdown behaviours and staying at home, and will need extra encouragement to venture out.

To get these people back more frequently, it will be crucial for operators to deliver an enjoyable experience as well as a safe one. With a third (35%) of consumers seeing their disposable income fall since the pandemic struck, they will need to provide good value for money too. And with nearly a third (31%) feeling that it is not worth visiting with so many precautions in place, it is important to avoid a clinical feel in venues and establish the right balance between safety and experience.

Hesitant and cost-conscious consumers may have new impetus to return to the on-trade after the launch of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out initiative. Nearly half (47%) of English consumers say they are likely to make use of the scheme, and warmer weather and the increased number of staycations this summer may provide further boosts to footfall.

It’s encouraging that so many consumers have returned to pubs, bars and restaurants, but it’s clear that others remain hesitant,” says Jess Walsh, Consumer Research Executive at CGA. “Safety will be a major concern for a long time yet, and reassuring guests while also delivering a high quality and good value experience is going to be a tall order. Understanding exactly who is coming through the doors and what they want will be absolutely crucial to achieving that in the months ahead.”

CGA’s Consumer Pulse research will provide essential up-to-the-minute insights into behaviour as hospitality returns. To learn more, contact CGA’s Consumer Research executive Jess Walsh at

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