Diners and drinkers keen to go out but sites are considered “risky”

Consumers are longing to return to cafés and restaurants but businesses will have a tough job convincing diners it’s safe, according to a series of news polls.

According to the NPD Group’s Covid-19 British foodservice sentiment study, 58% of consumers said that bars and restaurants are the riskiest places to become infected, with 74% likely to favour restaurants that can “guarantee social distancing”.

Meanwhile, 76% said they want strict rules to be in place to “prevent contagion”.

This week, UKHospitality sent the government a draft of the sector’s best practice health and safety protocols. “It is vital that reopening is done in the right way, at the right time and with the right support so that our industry can help rebuild shattered consumer confidence and bring the nation back together safely over the coming months,” said UKH chief executive Kate Nicholls.

As Footprint reported earlier this week, businesses will have to tread a fine line between reassuring returning customers that sites are safe and providing a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. As Yo Sushi! chief executive Richard Hodgson told the FT earlier this month: “Irrespective of what restrictions are lifted, we need to see what the customer sentiment is. When you see someone in a face mask and perspex screens, it reminds you that there is a risk.”

NPD’s research, which was conducted in early May, showed that 63% of British consumers said they’d return to restaurants, bars or cafés in the first month of reopening.

And in a separate study carried out by Allegra, 42% of 4,000 people surveyed said they missed visiting cafés and coffee shops – second only to visiting family and friends (60%) amongst a list of social outings that are not allowed during lockdown. “The warmth of hospitality is what we all yearn for,” said CEO Jeffrey Young. “Our restaurants, coffee shops and pubs are at the very heart of British life.”

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