What you need to know

Mintel’s Global COVID-19 Tracker shows that consumer confidence in eating out is gradually improving, with 41% of Brits saying they would feel comfortable going to an outdoor restaurant/bar as of 30 July-7 August compared to 27% at the end of June (on the eve of premises reopening).

The government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme will help to kickstart the hospitality industry as consumers are incentivised to visit these venues for a meal during the month of August 2020 (from Mondays to Wednesdays). Meanwhile the VAT cut on food and non-alcoholic drinks will help to keep prices down and will ensure more foodservice businesses stay afloat.

As working from home looks set to remain the norm for many office workers for a while longer, lunchtime sandwich shops/food-to-go formats will suffer from the decline in office working/commuting. A drop in tourism will also impact foodservice outlets, restaurants and pubs/bars situated in city locations.

COVID-19 will accelerate the need for functions in food and drink to improve diets and moods, such as weight management and relaxation. Meanwhile, online events (eg livestreaming wine tasting) are helping operators expand access to a wider audience from all over, unlocking greater brand awareness and ecommerce opportunities. UK's Michelin-starred chef Michael O'Hare, for example, streamed live cooking demonstrations on Instagram to accompany his range of nationwide delivery meal kits/recipe boxes.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on the foodservice sector, with a focus on consumers’ eating out decision-making process.

  • Consumers’ home delivery/takeaway habits and how these are impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Improvements that consumers would like to see made to foodservice venues and their food offerings.

  • Consumers’ attitudes towards the value and quality of eating out of home.

Products covered in this Report

In this Report, Mintel analyses consumers’ decision-making process with regards to foodservice venues. The scope of this Report is the eating out-of-home market within the UK, including ordering home delivery/takeaway.

Mintel’s UK foodservice market size is based on consumer expenditure on food and drink (ordered to eat/drink in or for takeaway/home delivery) in pubs/bars, restaurants, coffee shops, hotels (bars, restaurants and room service), roadside outlets/service stations and street food stalls or food courts.

This attitudinal Report explores eating out habits in terms of usage and frequency of visits, changes in usage resulting from COVID-19, interest in menu features and potential opportunities around advanced technologies. The Report also examines selected initiatives by foodservice operators, such as product, venue development and marketing activities.

COVID-19: Market context

This update was prepared on 19 August 2020.

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK at the end of January 2020 with a small number of cases in February. The government focused on the ‘contain’ stage of its strategy, with the country continuing to operate much as normal. As the case level rose significantly, the government ordered the closure of hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants (except for takeaway) on 20th March.

A wider lockdown requiring people to stay at home except for essential shopping, exercise and work ‘if absolutely necessary’ followed on 23rd March. Initially, a three-week timeframe was put on the measures, which was extended in mid-April for another three weeks.

On 10 May 2020, the Prime Minister announced revised guidance, recommending that people who could not work from home should return to the workplace, and giving people more scope to spend time out of the home. Further relaxations to lockdown rules were announced in the week of 23rd May, including gradual reopening of non-essential retailers, and increased opportunities for social interaction across households.

On 23 June the government announced that pubs, restaurants, hotels and other holiday accommodation and hairdressers would be allowed to reopen in England from 4 July. The guidelines on social distancing were modified from two metres to ‘one metre-plus’ – from 4 July people in England were advised to keep two metres apart where possible, but where not possible to keep one metre apart while taking ‘mitigating measures’. The guidelines for foodservice also included:

  • Maintaining social distancing between staff and customers when taking orders and minimising customer self-service of food, cutlery and condiments, which could mean using screens or tablets at tills and counters.

  • Prioritising contactless payments.

  • Avoiding clusters of people waiting for or collecting takeaways within a venue.

In Scotland pubs were allowed to open beer gardens from 6 July, and could welcome indoor trade from 15 July, when the two-metre rule was reduced to ‘one metre-plus’ for public transport, hospitality and retail. In Wales pubs and restaurants were allowed to open outdoors only from 13 July and indoors from 3 August, with exemptions made to the two-metre rule for businesses that cannot adhere to this as long as other precautions are taken.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central scenario included in its July 2020 Fiscal Sustainability Report. The scenario suggests that UK GDP could fall by 12.4% in 2020, recovering by 8.7% in 2021, and that unemployment will reach 11.9% by the end of 2020, falling to 8.8% by the end of 2021. The current uncertainty means that there is wide variation on the range of forecasts, however, something reflected in the OBR’s own scenarios. In its upside scenario, economic activity returns to pre-COVID-19 levels by Q1 2021. The OBR's more negative scenario, by contrast, would mean that GDP doesn’t recover until Q3 2024.

We are working on the assumption that a vaccine will be available by mid-2021, but that there will be continued disruption to both domestic and global markets for some time after that.

As long as there is not a second wave of infections, social distancing measures should be gradually relaxed over the course of 2020, but we don't expect industries such as hospitality, travel and live entertainment to return to any kind of normality until a vaccine is introduced.

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