Two thirds of British consumers have been back out to eat and drink since the end of lockdown—and half used the Eat Out to Help Out scheme over August.

Those are two headline messages from the latest edition of CGA’s BrandTrack report, based on a survey of 5,000 consumers in late August and early September. It shows that 65% of adults have returned to restaurants, pubs and other venues since they reopened—an increase of ten percentage points since mid-August, and 20 percentage points from the end of July.

Visits have snowballed since the start of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme. Just over half (52%) of the population made use of the discount, which gave a significant lift to food and drink sales throughout August.

The promotion drove repeat visits, with half (51%) of consumers telling the BrandTrack survey that it had prompted them to eat out more than they expected after lockdown. It has also played an important role in reassuring consumers about safety—especially those who were initially anxious. More than half (56%) of consumers who had used the scheme as one of their first post-lockdown visits said it made them feel more confident about visiting in the future, compared to just 3% who claimed it had dented their confidence.

Four in five consumers (83%) returning to the sector have been to restaurants, and nearly as many (80%) to pubs. However, only just over half (56%) have been back to bars, and even fewer to late-night bars (37%) or other leisure venues like cinemas and food halls (33%), where social distancing regulations have had a bigger impact on footfall.

Now that Eat Out to Help Out has ended, September’s big challenge for operators is to encourage the same high frequency of visit. But the BrandTrack survey shows there is a long way to go before visits from regular guests return to pre-COVID levels. Among consumers who ate out at least weekly before lockdown, fewer than half (44%) have continued to visit the sector at the same rate—and 31% are yet to revisit at all.

Some of the shortfall has been made up by consumers who embraced the Eat Out to Help Out subsidy in August. A fifth (21%) of those who ate out at least monthly before lockdown say they now do so at least weekly—though whether their enthusiasm lasts into autumn remains to be seen.

It’s positive that so many people have been back to pubs, restaurants and other venues since lockdown, and encouraging that they have been reassured about safety while doing so,” said Charlie Mitchell, Research and Insight Director at CGA. “However, our research highlights that it has been much harder for bars and the late-night sector to win people back, and the fact remains that a third of consumers have not returned at all. With Eat Out to Help Out at end, restrictions on socialising mounting and the risk of more local lockdowns rising, it’s clear that operators are going to have to work very hard to attract people through the doors this autumn.”

The new edition of CGA’s BrandTrack survey provides exclusive and up-to-the-minute insights into how consumers are returning to the out-of-home eating and drinking market. It analyses the latest attitudes towards drinks, delivery, technology, reveals big changes in the ways people interact with the sector and choose where to eat and drink out, and shows how altered working habits are impacting behaviour.

The BrandTrack survey can deepen every business’ understanding of the needs and habits of consumers in these unprecedented times. To learn how it can help you, contact Charlie Mitchell at charlie.mitchell@cga.co.uk.

     

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