Consumers may have a lot of pent-up demand to dine out, but they’re not abandoning their COVID-19 eating habits just yet.
Or so finds a recent survey by Buyer’s Edge Platform, a digital foodservice procurement network that that has analyzed purchasing data throughout the pandemic.
Perhaps the biggest trend that’s here to stay is the surge in off-premise dining. The pandemic has drastically changed how—and how much—consumers order food to go. Of the 500 consumers surveyed, 46% said they ordered more carryout and delivery in the last year, and 33% reported that they plan to order more in the next 12 months.
Although a slight majority (57.7%) of respondents prefer eating at a restaurant, 42.3% still prefer eating carryout or delivery at home.
The comfort and convenience of purchasing restaurant food to go is fueling the continuation of this habit. And Buyer’s Edge Platform data backs this up, as orders for disposable containers are still 43% above pre-pandemic levels.
Consumers have also embraced the role of technology in the food-ordering experience and are not that eager to give it up. Accessing menus through QR codes, online and mobile ordering and payment, and other contactless tech solutions are all now widely accepted, with 36% of consumers saying they hope these technology changes will continue after the pandemic.
But operators should be cautious about an overload of technology interfering with the customer restaurant experience. While 50% of consumers said they understand the need for these innovations to promote safety, they look forward to some services returning to the way they were before—especially when they sit down at a restaurant to dine.
Speaking of safety, sanitation remains a top concern. Sixty-eight percent of consumers said they appreciate seeing visual proof that enhanced cleaning and sanitizing procedures have been implemented at a restaurant. Buyer’s Edge reports that orders for disinfectant and sanitizer products by restaurants rose 36% during the pandemic and are poised to continue at that level.
Knowing where a restaurant is sourcing its food provides a greater sense of safety as well. Local sourcing is a priority, with 35% of consumers saying that finding a restaurant that serves locally sourced food is very important. This, in turn, motivates people to order from independent restaurants, with 41% of consumers reporting that they have ordered more food from indies since the pandemic began.
Consumers have also become more appreciative of all the work foodservice operations are putting into safety and service. Tipping reflects that appreciation—44% of customers are tipping more on their restaurant order, even for carryout and delivery meals.