Home is where the hearth is: Zagat predicts ‘significant shift’ in future dining preferences

June 11, 2020

As the United States begins to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, 93% of consumers say they plan to wait more than three weeks before considering a restaurant meal—and 20% plan to see what the situation is three months down the line before making a decision—according to a new study of nearly 7,000 Americans, released by restaurant discovery platform Zagat on June 10.

The Zagat Future of Dining online study was conducted in May and distributed in partnership with the James Beard Foundation. The results comprise 6,775 consumer responses.

Of those, 76% of respondents reported that pre-COVID-1, they had dined out two or more times per week. A complete summary of the Zagat Future of Dining study can be found via Zagat Stories.

Among the key findings of the study are the following:

  • Health and safety are paramount.  Three out of four diners cite health and safety concerns as the biggest deterrent to dining out—far outweighing financial reasons. Outdoor seating and reduced restaurant capacity are most likely to increase comfort levels and influence return—and 83% of those not immediately interested in returning to restaurants will be made more comfortable with social distancing measures and masks worn by staff.
  • Consumers take a ‘wait and see’ approach. The study clearly showed that diners miss restaurants and the entire experience of dining out, but as restaurants reopen, comfort levels vary. About 66% diners are planning to wait more than a week to return to a restaurant. Of those, 93% will wait more than three weeks and 20% say they’ll wait more than three months.
  • Cooking and home delivery surge. As expected, consuming meals at home is now here to stay. In terms of economic impact, 51% of respondents are very/somewhat likely to reduce spend on dining. Grocery shopping, along with streaming service subscriptions are the areas of spending least likely to be cut. In addition, restaurant delivery continues to grow. The study found that the 69% of consumers who ordered delivery pre-COVID-19 has increased to 88% during the pandemic. Of those not dining out immediately, 82% will continue to order delivery/takeout.

“Restaurants play a vital role in every neighborhood. This study serves as further evidence that COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the people, businesses, and the communities that rely so heavily on their operations,” said Chris Stang, CEO of Zagat and co-founder of restaurant discovery platform, The Infatuation. “Our goal with conducting the Future of Dining study was to help understand the COVID-19 related challenges that restaurants face in hopes that the local, state and federal government will identify ways to assist the industry in returning to operation safely and rebuilding itself to best address consumers’ needs.”

In order to spark dialogue between chefs, industry leaders, and diners, the data sourced from this study will be shared as a resource for the James Beard Foundation’s Open for Good initiative, which helps independent restaurants.

Research contact: @Zagat

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