Coronavirus is something that is having a major impact on the eating and drinking habits of consumers. There has been a massive shift in food consumption and eating habits due to concerns about hygiene, social distancing and healthcare safety. It is thought that as many as 85% of Americans have already made changes in the food they eat or how they prepare food because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to the International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) 2020 Food and Health Survey.
While we cannot predict the exact date and time as to when we will be free from this global pandemic, a recent article has tried to make some predictions about how consumer eating habits might have changed and what the world of dining out will look like when it is all over.
- Rise in Food Delivery: Social distancing has forced many of us to spend more time at home. Not surprisingly, with lock-downs, social-distancing measures and dine-in no longer an option, there has been a surge in demand for food delivery services as consumers turn to takeaway to treat themselves.
Offering and/or switching to provide delivery services has allowed many operators to stay afloat during the pandemic. The rate of adaption to new regulations, technologies and ways of working has allowed thousands of operators to offer uninterrupted service in a time of great uncertainty.
Though it is uncertain where the delivery trend will go in the post-COVID-19 world, offering delivery can help restaurants mitigate costs during this period of disruption and also ease the return to normal working conditions once COVID-19 is no longer a threat. When the crisis concludes the takeaway route may continue to provide a service to meet new expectations from consumers.
- Adoption of Contactless Tech: In the wake of COVID-19 there is constant concern surrounding hygiene and all touch points between a consumer and a business. As a consequence, customers are aiming to touch as few surfaces as possible when dining with their favorite eatery, making contactless technology a welcome necessity.
Customer behaviour and preferred interactions have changed significantly, and while they will continue to shift, the upsurge in the use of digital services is here to stay, at least to some degree. Now is a good time for restauranteurs to re-evaluate their customer tech options to ensure they have the contactless and mobile methods desired to be able to meet their current needs — and future requirements.
- Going Local: Timing and details aside, Americans will go back to dining in. And when they do they will approach the experience with a different outlook and empathy for the industry. Local businesses are the engine of our economy, and it’s not surprising that consumers believe in remaining loyal to their local businesses. According to a survey by AMC Global, 38% of consumers say they will supporting their communities by purchasing from locally owned businesses more in the future.
Not only that but people want to consume food closer to its source to reduce the perceived health risk! A coronavirus impact report by Yelp revealed the recognition of community supported agriculture increased dramatically by 430%, farms by 149%, butchers by 139%, and fruit and vegetable stores by 123%. Amy McCann, co-founder of Local Food Marketplace, a farm software company, explained that there is a psychological element at play which is shaping consumer outlook “…people feel that foods that have been produced at their local farm are less prone to viral spread, whereas… if you’re buying something from more traditional channels … the same product has interchanged hands many times before you go and pick up that head of lettuce or the bunch of carrots.” Which leads us to our next point…
- A Lean Towards Veganism: People are now more mindful than ever about what they are eating and how it is going to impact their health – and none more so post Covid-19. According to a report by the UN, more than 75% of emerging infectious diseases originate in animals. While there is no evidence to suggest that virus’ can be spread through food, due to the Covid-19 crisis and the association of meat with potential diseases, more and more consumers have shifted towards vegetarian food or as they like to call it- ‘a plant-based diet’.
Once a mocked subculture, plant-based living has become a mainstream lifestyle choice for many and post Covid-19, it will continue to rise in popularity. Pre-pandemic, many restaurants were still sitting out the plant-based revolution, but as consumers return to restaurants offering plant-based dishes using whole food ingredients, rather than processed meat alternatives, can help foodservice operators appeal to vegans, meat-eaters and everyone in between and satisfy their desire of both comfort and health.
Adapting to consumers demand is really challenging when the size of the shift in lockdown has never been seen before. However, business that can adapt and evolve as consumer needs change over the coming months will be pivotal to long term success.