What you need to know

The restaurant industry faces a steep uphill climb to recovery, as most consumers still do not feel comfortable dining inside restaurants in the latter half of 2020. Operators must make major creative pivots to meet consumers’ drastically different needs during the pandemic, including improving safety measures for dine-in service, investing in takeout and delivery services and even selling products that aren’t traditionally on the menu, such as meal kits and masks. The recession will further hinder restaurant recovery, as consumers seek value-driven meal options.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and dining out

  • The recessionary impact on dining out

  • Consumers’ key barriers to dining out during the pandemic

  • How operators can make consumers feel better about dining out


This Report examines consumer attitudes, behaviors and trends toward dining at restaurants during the pandemic, illuminating what the road to recovery looks like for both limited-service restaurants and full-service restaurants.

In this Report, Mintel has segmented diner groups by their dining behaviors in addition to their future dining intentions:

  • Dining Enthusiasts (42% of consumers) are those who have already dined out or who intend to dine out again as soon as restaurants near them reopen

  • Cautious Diners (38%) are those who plan to wait a couple weeks or months before dining out

  • Disinclined Diners (20%) are those who will wait a year to dine out or who don’t plan on dining out at all.

COVID-19: US context

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global health pandemic, and on March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency in the US.

Across the US, state-level stay-at-home orders rolled out throughout the months of March and April, remaining in place through May and in some cases June. During this time, referred to as lockdown, nonessential businesses and school districts across the nation closed or shifted to remote operations. Restaurants became takeout- and delivery-only in nearly all states.

During re-emergence, all 50 states have relaxed stay-at-home orders and allowed businesses to operate with varying levels of social distancing measures in place. The continued spread of COVID-19 infections has driven some states to slow down or reverse course on reopening plans. Mintel anticipates the US will remain in a state of flux through 2021, until a vaccine is available.

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