40 per cent of respondents are preferring takeaway/home-delivery pre-COVID. Interestingly, nearly 50% diners admit that they are highly inclined to dine out once lockdown is eased, highlighting stay-at-home fatigue in Bengaluru. Whereas, Chennai had the highest percentage (80%) of respondents dining out at restaurants before COVID, 40% frequenting restaurants 3 times or more a month. However, only 8% of respondents indicate a willingness to dine at restaurants immediately post lockdown. 72% wish to dine out after a minimum of 2 months, shared a report conducted by Economix Consulting Group (ECG).
It also added that 64% of respondents in Mumbai prefer takeaway/home-delivery. In addition, ‘proximity of restaurant’ is considered “Not Important” by the largest share of diners. 21% of respondents do not expect to dine-out in the immediate future, while 27% wish to go out only after a couple months.
ECG Study reveals interesting insights on changing behavior and expectation of urban diners post second wave of COVID.
“From our study, it is evident that diners do not expect to return to dining at restaurants immediately after easing of lockdown restrictions. The shift to home-delivery/ takeaway is here to stay. Restaurants should take this time to focus on building trust with consumers, as diners exercise extreme caution in choosing where to eat/order,” added Latha Ramanathan, Founder & CEO, ECG.
The survey was conducted Pan-India among the middle class/upper middle class to understand the variations in diner behavior, Pre & Post the Pandemic and how restaurants should be gearing up to meet those needs. The survey was conducted in Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai, and a few other metros and smaller cities in India.
The study examined the changes in respondents’ dining habits and the current preferences including type of restaurants they would like to visit, type of cuisine they would prefer, the dine-in experience, safety and hygiene protocols.
Some of the key findings of the survey are:
A Sticky Shift to Home Dining: Diners expect to continue eating meals from restaurants at home, with 61% of respondents preferring takeaway/home-delivery of meals post the pandemic induced lockdown. In the past, almost 75% of respondents used to dine-out at restaurants. There is a marked shift towards preferring Takeaway/Home-Delivery over Dine-out across all categories of respondents, Homemakers and Working Professionals demonstrated the greatest shift (51% and 37% respectively) in their preferences towards Takeaway/ Home- Delivery.
Slow Recovery to Dining out: More than a third of respondents dined out 3 times or more in a month pre-COVID, but only 11% of respondents wish to dine at restaurants, immediately once lockdown eases. Overall, Women appear to be more cautious than men about venturing out to eat, with 71% preferring to dine out only after 2 months or more , whereas nearly 50% Male respondents are keen to dine out within the next month.
Flexibility and Safety in Dining: Nearly 60% of diners wish to have the option between indoor and outdoor seating once they start visiting restaurants again, and more than 90% respondents wish for a change in table arrangements, either all tables being operational following social distancing protocols or reduced number of tables. Not surprisingly, a majority (86%) of the diners continue to consider seating arrangements as an extremely important factor amongst the list of factors considered before dining out at restaurants (pre-COVID (81%)).
Cutlery Matters: More than half of the diners prefer Biodegradable (such as Banana leaf) or Recyclable (wood) cutlery, while just over a third of the diners prefer Reusable cutleries (metal/ceramic).
Shift in Meal preferences: Diners have become cautious, with almost half of them having concerns about consuming cold/ uncooked foods such as desserts, salads and fruits. More than 50% diners plan to continue ordering non-vegetarian meals during this pandemic.
Transparency in Operations: A key demand of patrons while dining out post-COVID is for the restaurants to be transparent and communicate openly with customers regarding the safety and hygiene measures they have adopted. Over 95% of diners admit that they would feel comfortable visiting restaurants who clearly communicate their protocols in dining and kitchen areas, with some preferring kitchens that are open for inspections by customers. 74% of the diners would like the restaurants to advertise in social media/any other medium or through posters/flyers outside the restaurant about their hygiene and safety measures. Almost all (~98%) diners rated Cleanliness & Hygiene and COVID safety protocol as important factors amongst the list of factors they would like to consider prior to dining at restaurants.
Trust is a Must: Consumers have indicated that safety and hygiene are their topmost priority while stepping out to dine. A sharp shift to franchisee and fine dining restaurants and considerable importance given to ‘recommendation from family and friends’ are cited as factors while choosing restaurants to dine.
Personal touch continues to set apart the ‘restaurant experience’: Significant number of consumers still prefer waiters taking orders at the table (48%) and serving food at the table (58%). While as expected, millennials expressed the highest willingness (49%) to place their order via Apps & QR Codes, interestingly, respondents aged 40 and above are proving very adaptive with nearly a third open to both traditional and ordering via an app.