Only 45 percent of restaurateurs are very confident they will stay in business for the next 12 months, and they need financial relief and clear, consistent standards to successfully reopen, according to “Restaurant Reopening: Challenges, Needs and the Keys to Getting it Right,” a new study from The Coca-Cola Company.
Conducted in partnership with Teneo via online surveys between June 22 and July 2 in Florida, Washington and New York, the results offer insight into how the pandemic has impacted restaurants, how operators have adapted and what will bring diners back through their doors.
The survey group included 418 restaurant operators and 1,500 restaurant patrons who had visited a restaurant two or more times per month prior to COVID-19. Restaurant segments represented include fine dining, casual dine, fast casual, quick service restaurants and bars.
“This research proves the need for increased support for restaurants, and we’re asking industry leaders, partners, legislators and consumers to join us in coming to their aid," said Kathleen Ciaramello, President, Foodservice & On-Premise at The Coca-Cola Company.
COVID-19 Impact on Restaurants
Though many restaurants have begun to reopen, restrictions limiting seating coupled with consumers’ reluctance to return to in-restaurant dining means many restaurants are months away from operating at a profit. On top of that, 59 percent of restaurant owners say they are concerned a second wave of infections will force another shutdown.
To address health and safety issues related to COVID-19, restaurant owners say that on average they plan to invest an estimated $7,400 in making updates to their businesses, with one quarter of them also sharing it will likely take longer than a year to recoup these costs, if they are able to recover them at all. The data shows the need for increased support at the local, state and federal levels, with owners communicating the need for financial relief and clear, consistent standards to successfully reopen. Negative impacts to the industry and the communities they serve will most likely be severe without additional stimulus, as 92 percent of owners say they would significantly or somewhat benefit from specialized state and federal funds earmarked for restaurant recovery.
Innovating During COVID-19
In order to remain competitive during the COVID shutdown, 95 percent of restaurant owners innovated and added a new service they didn’t previously offer, and more than half of the restaurants adapted their operations to accommodate new takeout or delivery services. Diners responded positively, and adoption and demand for these new innovations suggests there is opportunity for a longer-term strategy for restaurants on the pathway toward profitability. For example, the insights show that grocery sales are the biggest opportunity for restaurants to continue to innovate, with 72 percent of consumers sharing that they are likely to buy groceries from a restaurant but just 29 percent of restaurants are offering the service.
Rebuilding Consumer Confidence
While consumers are eager to return to restaurants, their health and safety concerns continue to hold them back, as 80 percent say they are either very or somewhat concerned about dining in a restaurant. However, half of consumers say they will be ready for takeout dining within one to two weeks of a restaurant’s reopening, suggesting that a continued focus on takeout and delivery will help drive sales as diners wait to dine in. As with restaurant owners, consumers share that universally recognized standards and a rating system that all restaurants can follow would be helpful to reassure them that it is safe to return. Ultimately, a restaurant’s demonstration of safe practices is most important to patrons, including providing hand sanitization stations, limiting the number of diners in the establishment, requiring employees to wear masks and increasing the visibility of cleaning efforts.
Restaurant Tools and Resources
In April, Coca-Cola launched CokeRapidResponseResource.com, a site that is regularly updated with COVID-19 safety guidelines for restaurants, tips for optimizing takeout and drive-thru operations, information about third-party restaurant delivery services and more. Via Coca-Cola Marketplace, restaurant owners can access discounted apps and services that create a more contactless dining experience, such as CardFree’s Pay@Table and OneDine’s scan-to-order solution.