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Consumers appear more comfortable dining out

A survey suggests consumers’ comfort with eating at restaurants has hit a post-pandemic peak despite continued concerns about COVID-19.
Photograph: Shutterstock

More than a third of consumers plan to eat in a restaurant during the next week or two as they grow more comfortable with dining out, a post-pandemic high, according to the latest tracking survey from the market intelligence company CivicScience."

 According to the research, 49% of consumers last week said they were comfortable eating out, down from 52% the week before but still generally higher than at any other point since the start of the pandemic in March. About 36% said they intend to dine in a restaurant.

The data should provide at least some comfort to restaurants that consumers are moving away from restaurants as the weather begins to cool down.

There is growing concern about a renewed spike in cases as the weather cools down and people spend more time indoors, while more states relax rules intended to keep people socially distant. What’s more, the Centers for Disease Control recently listed restaurant visits as a risky activity during the pandemic.

Industry sales rebounded since the outset of the pandemic and have remained largely steady in the past several weeks, both at full-service restaurants and at quick-service concepts.

According to data from the back-office software firm Crunchtime, restaurant sales are at 74% of pre-COVID levels across all segments, a level they’ve been at for much of the past few weeks. Fast-food restaurants and fast-casual concepts are at 95% and 92%, respectively. Full-service restaurant sales have steadily improved since the beginning of April and were at 64% of pre-pandemic levels.

All that said, at least one survey suggests a number of consumers are still reticent to dine out at restaurants, suggesting that this fall will continue an overall lower number of visits. According to the loyalty program company Rewards Network, 48% of consumers said in a survey that they plan to dine out less often. Only 12% said they planned to dine out more often.

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