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Restaurants likely to feel collateral damage from terrorist attacks: Study

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Last weekend’s multiple terrorist attacks are likely to dampen restaurant sales for days to come, according to new research on the public’s reaction to high-profile acts of violence.

The data from Technomic shows that events like the murder of 43 people in June at an Orlando, Fla., nightclub and the fatal shooting of five policemen in Dallas a month later had a definite effect on consumers’ spending.

Roughly one in five consumers, for instance, said they changed their dining-out behavior in the wake of the Orlando catastrophe. Eleven percent said they stayed home and cooked instead of going to restaurants, and 5% told Technomic they opted for more delivery and takeout.

Another 4% reported trading down to less expensive restaurants. It was unclear if people were opting for the quicker service typical of less expensive restaurants, like fast-food outlets, or conserving dollars because of economic fears.

Less than a tenth (7%) of the consumers who reported cooking more often said they had resumed their prior frequency of dining out.

The proportion of consumers who said they changed their restaurant habits after the Dallas tragedy was nearly the same as the ones who acted differently following the Orlando shootings. Nearly the same percentage of consumers (18%) said they changed their restaurant habits after the Dallas tragedy.

The findings confirm widespread but unsubstantiated speculation that fears of mass attacks are a major reason for a drop-off in restaurant traffic and sales since around May. The research was undertaken by Technomic, the research sister of Restaurant Business, specifically to probe the reasons for that downturn.

The survey of nearly 1,000 consumers revealed that attention-seizing events, including the Olympics, had changed the public’s dining-out behaviors. For instance, while the summer games were underway, 26% of consumers ate at home more often, either because they cooked (15%) or ordered takeout or delivery (11%).

Respondents were asked how various high-profile events, from the Orlando shootings to the developments in the presidential campaign, had made them feel. Disgust, anger and fear were the most frequent responses.

Asked specifically about the emotional impact of the nightclub shooting, 58% said they were disgusted, 56% reported feeling angry and 29% acknowledged they were fearful.

Only 5% of the respondents say they were unaffected.

More than a third (37%) who had an emotional reaction said it lasted for a few days.

Fright and worry were the most common reactions to the presidential race, with 42% of the respondents using those words to characterize their emotional reactions. Thirty-five percent said they were anxious about the race, 31% said they were fearful, and 32% reported being disgusted.

The research was conducted for a white paper that Technomic is drafting on the causes of the downturn. More information is available here.

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