There are high hopes that things will go back to normal once a vaccine is in enough arms, including dining out. However, a full return to normal may not be in the cards for the food services and restaurant industries as there will likely be continued interest in cooking at home and buying fresh food. A series of structural, economic and preferential changes for consumers could explain this shift.
With vaccinations underway in many countries and an end to the health crisis in sight, one of the biggest questions for the global consumer industry is which COVID-19 trends will outlast the pandemic itself? Many assume life will go back to normal again or even tilt toward an abundance of social and economic engagement around everything that wasn’t considered safe to do in 2020. When it comes to food, restaurants are counting on pent-up demand for dining out to once again fill their tables to capacity. They are gambling on consumers being tired of cooking for themselves and missing the excitement of the restaurant experience.
The latest data from Deloitte’s Global State of the Consumer Tracker puts the narrative into question. In our poll of 40,000 consumers across 18 countries, respondents indicated an overall pattern of continued at-home consumption and avoiding crowds—even after the health crisis ends. For instance, they say they will continue buying fresh food and cooking more than they did before the pandemic. While eating at restaurants will surely increase from today’s levels, consumers are telling us their dining frequency will remain lower than in 2019, at least in the medium-term.
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