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Just over a third of English consumers returned to restaurants, pubs and bars in the first ten days of reopening, CGA’s Consumer Pulse research reveals.

The snap poll of 500 adults provides operators and suppliers with crucial insights into the people coming back to the on-trade—as well as those who are still reluctant to return. It shows that 35% of adults in England had paid a visit between Saturday 4 and Monday 13 July, and that the charge was led by younger adults: more than half (55%) of 25 to 34 year-olds have now ventured out, and nearly as many 18 to 24 year-olds (46%).

With an average of 2.5 visits in the first ten days, the research shows that many early returners are already getting back into the habit of regular visits. More than half of them have visited pubs (54%)—ahead of both restaurants (46%) and bars (26%). That is in line with indicators from CGA that more managed pubs have opened than restaurants, and suggests people feel more comfortable going out to drink than to eat.

The Consumer Pulse data confirms another big post-lockdown trend: that consumers want to stay close to home even as movement restrictions ease. More than two thirds (69%) travelled no further than 20 minutes to eat or drink out—which presents major challenges for town and city centre operators who have previously been able to draw people in from outlying areas.

There are positive signs that returning consumers are going to stay out, with four in five planning another visit in either the next week (57%) or next fortnight (23%). This reflects operators’ early success in proving to consumers that they are in safe hands, and echoes separate CGA research showing that more than nine in ten visitors were either very satisfied (80%) or satisfied (14%) with safety steps in the venues they visited.

The research provides equally vital intelligence on the 65% of people who haven’t yet returned to the on-trade. And as operators try to win people back, by far the most urgent priority is convincing this anxious majority that it is safe to do so. Nearly half (46%) of non-returners say they don’t feel safe in close proximity to strangers, and nearly as many (41%) don’t feel safe enough to go out generally yet. But there are encouraging hints that the government’s new Eat Out To Help Out scheme could kickstart visits: two in five of those who haven’t been out yet say they are very or somewhat likely to use the scheme.

Our Consumer Pulse data confirms what we expected ahead of reopening: that although some people are returning to pubs, bars and restaurants with gusto, it will take a while to persuade others to come out,” says Rachel Weller, CGA’s Head of Consumer Research and Marketing. “Industry campaigns like We Hear You and the government’s VAT cut and Eat Out To Help Out initiative should help, and early returners will hopefully start to spread the message that it is safe to eat and drink out. We’ll all be hoping that visits gather momentum over the summer, and CGA will be working hard to identify what consumers need to see and hear to be encouraged back to hospitality.”

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 jess.walsh@cga.co.uk.

     

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