New research from restaurant-focused tech firm Popmenu examines consumers views on the safety of in-person dining—whether they’re vaccinated or not. After enduring a “will this ever end?” hiatus from on-premise dining, restaurants are beginning to fill tables and waitlists again—but consumers remain cautious and expect safety-conscious, digitally-enabled dining experiences to continue into the foreseeable future.
According to nationwide survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers in January 2022, 78 percent of those vaccinated for COVID are still concerned about dining in person at restaurants; 50 percent of those unvaccinated for COVID share the same sentiment. The study, which also looked at consumer dining trends in Q4 2021, uncovered an evolved normal for dining preferences and behaviors on-premise and online.
A number of vaccinated and unvaccinated support vaccination mandates
Addressing a polarizing issue, the majority of vaccinated consumers (65 percent) feel the government should mandate that people must show proof of vaccination to eat in restaurant dining rooms. Nearly 1 in 4 unvaccinated consumers (23 percent) agree.
Contactless dining is here to stay—with even less contact
Eighty-two percent of consumers want contactless dining options on-premise going forward because they feel it is safer and enables them to order and pay their bill faster. While half prefer a combination of digital and server support, 1 in 4 (26 percent) prefer a completely digital experience with no server.
Takeout continues to take a sizeable cut of consumer dollars
Forty-two percent of consumers order carryout/delivery three or more days a week; 63 percent order it at least twice a week.
- Sidenote—orders aren’t always claimed: 47 percent of consumers said they have ordered carryout, but never picked it up—leaving restaurants with orphaned orders. Of these consumers, 63 percent had paid for the meal while 37 percent did not.
Alcohol-to-go is quickly gaining popularity
Fifty-six percent of consumers ages 21 and older said they are likely to order cocktails-to-go this year; nearly one-third (32 percent) said they are very likely to do so.
Consumers are willing to pay more to provide a livable wage for restaurant staff
When asked whether they would be open to restaurants including higher service fees (20 percent or higher) to help provide a livable wage to staff, 2 in 5 consumers (43 percent) said they would support it. Others preferred a tipping option instead.
More consumers frequent neighborhood mom-and-pop restaurants
When asked where they dine at or order from most often, 34 percent of consumers pointed to local, independent restaurants compared to 20% who prefer national chains; 46 percent are equally split between the two.
“Despite lingering concerns, consumers can’t help but miss their favorite eateries and many are dining in person again or plan to in the near future—but with different expectations,” said Brendan Sweeney, CEO and co-founder of Popmenu, in a news release. “Consumers became accustomed to new ways of doing things during COVID and 75 percent of them expect restaurants to offer more digitally-enabled experiences both online and on-premise going forward. This doesn’t mean that hospitality has to be compromised at all, and the continued deep shortage of available hospitality workers in many ways necessitates the involvement of more technology to make staff more efficient. As the restaurant industry works toward sustained recovery, a greater emphasis on digital connections and convenience will help to enhance guest experiences which will always be grounded in excellent food and service.”
Popmenu conducted a nationwide survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers from January 20 to January 21, 2022. The survey was anonymous and included representative samples of consumers ages 18 and older across geographies.