While Melburnians collectively exhale and head to the city to commune for the first time in months, research suggests that pervasive anxiety will persist for the short-term, meaning that wining and dining will not look the same.
These are some of the insights in new consumer research from CGA, published as the on-premise emerges from more than 100 days of lockdown today.
The survey of 500 people was conducted this month and paints an optimistic picture for Melbourne’s hospitality industry, so crippled by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Well over half (59%) of those interviewed intend to dine out at least as often, if not more than, they did before lockdown.
Cafes and coffee shops will be the first to feel the increase in trade with consumers more eager to stay local and head for a coffee and brunch before they gather at pubs, bars and restaurants.
However, there is widespread concern among consumers about safety, with only half (48%) of those interviewed saying they feel confident about returning. This is 15% lower than the figure for the rest of Australia (63%).
And so, there is an implicit onus for the on-premise sectors to ensure that the highest safety standards are maintained to help patrons feel safe and secure.
“The big challenge for operators is to demonstrate to their guests that they can have a safe as well as enjoyable time when they go out to eat and drink—and suppliers have a key support role to play,” said CGA commercial director Graeme Loudon.
CGA’s research also suggests that this cautionary mood will mean that consumers eat and drink out close to home, rather than travelling into and across central Melbourne. More than half (54%) of consumers agree they will be visiting more local venues than they did before lockdown.
It also suggests that food and drink delivery services can expect continuing demand, that outings will be well-planned, and that consumers will avoid crowds and peak times for pubs, bars and restaurants when outlets reopen.
“Lockdown aftermaths in cities around the world have consistently revealed new normals of consumer behaviour. From staying local to planning to spreading visits across the day, operators and suppliers can expect to see some important changes in habits, and they will need to stay right on top of the evolving needs of guests.
“Melbourne is a valuable market of engaged, knowledgeable and discerning consumers, and operators and suppliers will need to optimise food and drink offers and ranges for changed occasions and fresh priorities,” said Graeme Loudon.
CGA is an on-premise measurement, insight and international research consultancy that provides insight to food and drink brands around the world.