Understanding and, to some extent, predicting how operations and finance should adapt to these changes has become a pressing business challenge.
The Diner Tracking Study (Streetbees, 2020) took an in-depth look at South African consumers’ behaviour and attitudes towards eating out and takeaways /deliveries from 25 April 2020 – 18 August 2020. Here’s what they learned:
The study showed that the takeaway/delivery sector picked up far quicker than Out of Home (OOH) dining once restaurants and takeaways re-opened.
In addition to the opportunities presented by the takeaway/delivery trend, there are other rays of hope for the OOH operators:
- Guests want to return to OOH dining, with some expectations of increased hygiene measures. Very few respondents said there was nothing that could be done to make them feel comfortable eating out for a while.
- Chain restaurants were missed.
- New routines bring new opportunities
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Returning to Eating Out
OOH experiences so far have been about having a treat – with consumers wanting a quick and easy meal.
- Convenience and socialising with friends have also been key drivers whilst many lockdown restrictions were in place.
- Lower down the rankings were family treats and occasions, work lunches or after-work socialising.
Requirements for Feeling Comfortable Eating OOH
To ease consumer concerns, restaurants will need to create distance among tables and ensure staff have protective clothing, such as masks and gloves.
- Consumers in South Africa would also like staff to be regularly checked for COVID-19, so restaurants will need to consider how they communicate this to consumers.
- Only a small minority wouldn’t like to see any adjustments, underlining the importance of safety measures even as restrictions ease.
Better News for Larger Chains
Findings from the study suggests that larger, trusted takeaway and restaurant chains were given a head start when restrictions were eased (Streetbees, 2020).
- Chain fast food restaurants were the most missed and most popular venues once restrictions were eased.
- Chain fast food restaurants have led the recovery among those eating OOH – with many visiting these venues as a treat.
- Consumer order for convivence and to spend time with others – it’s important to deliver on these expectations in, or out of lockdown.
New Routines Bring New Opportunities
Other findings from the study highlight areas where household routines changed:
- In-home dining was consistently high, with 95% of meals per week eaten at home. Even as restrictions eased, OOH eating levels remained low.
- Work from Home (WFH) and the closure of schools changed commuting patterns and household routines. This would have influenced family meal routines, especially at lunchtime.
- It’s interesting to note that during the research period, around one-third of respondents remained at work, one-third were not working, 20% were working from home and expecting to go back to work, 10% were always working from home and 4% were expecting to permanently work from home. (Streetbees, 2020. Proportions rounded off).
- This suggests that only 20% of workers were expecting to start up their community routine within the next three months.
Has Lunch Taken Dinner’s Place?
Lunch dominated eating out occasions during the tracking period. It could be speculated that this is influenced by the WFH trend, the alcohol ban and curfews (which are in place again).
Lunch was the highest proportion of meal occasions at which diners ate OOH:
Breakfast – 13%
Lunch – 46%
Dinner – 20%
It’s clear that COVID-19 will continue to influence foodservice operations, especially for eat-in diners, for a while yet. Legal as well as selfimposed restrictions have changed consumer behaviour forever. It’s impossible to predict the future with any certainty, but taking a look at these findings from the first five months of lockdown could give some clues to new attitudes and behaviours.
Streetbees, 2020. Eating Occasions Diner Tracker Insights, South Africa. 25 April – 18 August 2020.