Customers not ready to go out

May 21, 2020
By Alana House

As COVID-19 restrictions ease, a survey of 2225 Australians by Vox Pop Labs and the ABC has found only 40% feel ready to be customers at bars and restaurants.

The survey shows that 41% of Aussies think it will be more than 12 months before things are “more or less back to normal”; 22% believe it will be six months.

Psychologist Dr Rachael Murrihy said people are facing another challenging transition when they come out of isolation, and may have mixed feelings about things they did previously, such as going out for a meal.

“It’s very normal for people to feel two opposing feelings at once,” she said.

“You can feel hope and excitement about the fact the social isolation and restrictions are loosening while at the same time feeling fear and apprehension, that’s completely normal.”

She pointed to a major review in The Lancet that showed the longer people are in quarantine and in social isolation, the greater the effects.

Colin Fassnidge

My Kitchen Rules judge Colin Fassnidge, who runs venues including the Banksia Bistro, told 7News: “I think it will be a very long recovery, especially once the mortgages kick back in and the JobKeeper stops.

“A lot of people around our area who eat in our pubs are from Qantas and Virgin, and a lot of families have lost two jobs in one go.

“So I think will be a very quiet Christmas coming up. We won’t see the spend we normally see.”

The owner of Triple Shot Cafe in Sydney’s Surry Hills, Jessica Wang, told SBS that some customers she talked to are still afraid to have food in a public area.

“They are afraid to get infected,” she said.

‘Health fascists’ are bullying us

Andrew Bolt has written an opinion piece for the Herald Sun, saying Australians must be allowed “to decide for ourselves” whether the danger COVID-19 poses outweighs our return to normal life.

“Stop this health fascism,” he said. “If the rest of us want to risk the infinitesimal chance of catching the coronavirus at a restaurant, pub, hotel or B&B, then let us.

“If you’re too scared to join in, then stay home. No one is forcing you to come.

“So lift these bans now. Let us adults enjoy ourselves and give jobs to hundreds of thousands of staff.”

He concluded: “This farce has gone on too long.”

Nervous diners in NZ, UK & US

Overseas, the hospitality industry fears the stay-at-home message may have worked too well, with customers very nervous about head out when lock down measures ease.

Across the Tasman, Auckland’s popular hospitality precinct, Ponsonby Rd, was nearly deserted on the first Saturday evening of relaxed restrictions.

Meanwhile, 61% of Britons admit they would be uncomfortable using public transport or going to a pub or restaurant. 

In the US, an article from the Brewers Association found that while venues are beginning to reopen, only “somewhere between 20-40% of people are ready to get back out into the world”.

“Somewhere around one third are thinking about it, but waiting for more signs of progress or simply giving it a few weeks,” explained economist Bart Watson. “Finally, there is a group that is most hesitant, and will require the most convincing to resume previous patterns.”

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