Post-lockdown catering: getting back to business
There has been an increase in out-of-home eating in the last decade and it has taken on an increasingly important role in our lives, becoming associated with important themes like socialisation and hedonism. A global phenomenon, which HostMilano, the hospitality fair that has established itself on all markets thanks to its particularly international nature (over 40% of exhibitors are from abroad), has seen grow over the years. Now, after the shock of Covid19 and now the gradual easing of the lockdown, consumption is gradually starting to pick up again.
But not everyone in every country is so keen to go back to life as it was. An examination of Europe and how keen people are to going out to a restaurant post lockdown, reveals that Italy and Germany are more or less at the same level (36% and 37% respectively prepared to dine out in the first week and 74% within the first month of establishments reopening), whereas Spain is in slightly less of a hurry (33% and 59%), as are France (30% and 67%) and the UK (27% and 63%), while in Russia one in every two consumers say they will eat out in the first week (50%) but just 62% will continue to do so in the first month. In Italy, three out of four people interviewed said they were missing their bars and restaurants. And in the USA, in the week ending 7 June, the full-service restaurants segment was up 7% on the previous week and up 49% on the week ending 12 April, when it was at its lowest point.
“The fact that people in some countries are more cautious than in others depends on the measures that have been taken but also on the context,” explains Matteo Figura, head of Foodservice Italy at The NPD Group, a company that is carrying out weekly analyses of trends in out-of-home eating in various markets. “The more restrictive reopening rules in Italy engender a greater perception of risk and make people more cautious. But the return to normality also depends on the role out-of-home eating plays in that country: in Italy, dining out is a big part of how people socialise, hence a greater desire to return to how things used to be, while in practical terms the return to normality will be slower and will have to wait until opportunities for consumption return, for example when people stop working from home and go back to their offices.”
So this is anything but “business as usual”: at the end of May in Italy, spending on out-of-home eating was at just 51% of the level it was at the start of the year. Surveys suggest indicate two new essential conditions for a recovery: hygiene and safety. It comes as no surprise that 80% of Italian consumers believe that restaurant hygiene is now more important than it was before, that 77% will favour restaurants that have introduced severe rules to prevent the spread of the virus and that 75% say they will favour restaurants that ensure social distancing. And people will tend to prefer eating out at familiar places in their local communities.
“It seems likely that people will want to start going out again in these initial weeks of reopening. People will feel the need to get out of the house and enjoy those gratifying, hedonistic feelings once again, which might just mean going out for a pizza or drinking coffee at a bar: all those regular habits people haven’t been able to indulge in for a long time.”
It is less easy to see how long it will take for these behavioural patterns to become well-established again. “As we have seen in China, we can expect there to be a slowdown after the first few weeks of ‘enthusiasm’ and it will be a while before people start eating out again as they used to.”