Not feeling safe is the main reason why consumers in the US say they are not yet ready to return to restaurants and bars, new research from Nielsen CGA reveals.

Overall 30% of people questioned had been out to eat in the last two weeks with 12% going out just for a drink. Pre-COVID-19 just over 80% of US consumers would normally visit a restaurant or bar for a meal at least once every two weeks, revealing the challenge the market still has to reassure people to come back.

The picture, however, varies from state to state. With the majority of the US now reopened, this latest research focused on the key states of Texas, Florida, New York and California. Over the weekend of June 5-7, CGA’s Chicago-based business surveyed 1,600 consumers in those states, with an emphasis on the 1,200 who had drank alcohol in the last three months, on their expectations, desires and how they plan to behave in the next two weeks – including the July 4 holiday.

In light of recent events, consumers were also asked about the impact of recent protests have on their decisions to go out. While 57% said they were unaffected, 8% said they went somewhere different than planned and 35% decided not to go out due to the street disturbances.

More generally, of those that had gone out to restaurants and bars, 20% visited just once, while 38% have done so twice, with 42% visiting three times or more in the last two weeks

Among those that had not returned to eat or drink, the biggest concerns were not feeling safe being in close proximity with strangers in these places (45%) and not feeling safe going out at the moment (41%).

Most Americans usually spend Independence Day with family and friends at home, and of those who plan to celebrate July 4 this year, the biggest percentage (49%) expects to celebrate at home rather than in bars and restaurants (14%).

Looking at individual states, California and New York are in earlier phases of reopening than Texas and Florida, which is reflected in the data, with 40% of consumers in Texas, 35% in Florida, 25% in California and 22% in New York state saying they had been out to eat in the last fortnight. Numbers going out for a drink, however, are around 12% in every state.

Young consumers are most likely to have returned to the on-premise market for a meal or to drink, with 43% of 21-34 year olds, 29% of 35-54 year olds and 22% of those 55+ having been out. While 22% of 21-34 year olds have been out to drink, just 12% of 35-54’s and 4% of 55+’s have been out for a drinking occasion.

Looking to the next two weeks, the numbers visiting bars and restaurants could see further increases, the research suggests, with 35% planning to go out to bars and restaurants for an eating occasion and 19% for a drinking occasion. This does show some variation by state, with New York likely to still have lower numbers going to eat out (26%) than the other states. In Florida it is 42% and Texas 41%.

The survey also shows there is a high uptake of food delivery across the four states, with 67% of consumers having ordered a take out/delivery of food in the last two weeks and 14% a delivery with alcohol.  The same number expects to carry out this behaviour in the next two weeks.

The top venues chosen by consumers going out are casual dining chains (36%), followed by independent restaurants (30%), with sports bars third most popular venue type (20%).

Of the 59% who have not returned to eat or drink, 42% said they needed more time to feel comfortable visiting these places. When asked at which point they believed they would return, the top two responses were once the number of COVID-19 cases did not increase again (28%) and when there is a vaccine/treatment available (27%).

The principal encouragement for consumers to return would be seeing staff in masks/gloves (40%), outdoor seating (39%) and social distancing measures (39%).

However, 12% of consumers said they planned to return as soon as more bars and restaurants reopened, and of more significance for New York (18%), than California (14%), Texas (7%) or Florida (6%).

For more information about Nielsen CGA’s COVID-19: On Premise Impact Report, email or visit


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