In Focus

What Europe's restaurants can learn from Australia's second wave

Mintel offers numbers that chains may consider as it approaches winter.

The second wave of COVID-19 in Australia may offer some insights to restaurants and other retailers in Europe on how to operate this coming winter, Mintel senior trends consultant Richard Cope suggested.

Examining the second lockdown in Victoria, Cope - citing the Academy of Medical Sciences - pointed out concerns that a death toll from another wave in the UK could reach 120,000, which may lead to a Australian-style harder set of restrictions.

A heavier psychological toll is also seen, with Victoria’s Kids Helpline for under 25s reporting an 8% increase in calls in July. Department of Health data also showed that whilst only 6% of Victoria’s deaths have been amongst the under 39s, they have accounted for more than half of cases, with those aged 20-29 logging over 1,800 infections.

For Cope, this raises an “ominous note” in the UK, arguing that people in younger demographics seem especially opposed to some forms of accepted advice to curb transmissions.

“Research from King’s College London has revealed that 27% of those who get their news from WhatsApp think wearing a mask is bad for health, whilst 22% of 16-24s would definitely not or would be unlikely to accept a vaccine,” he explained.

Winter patterns seen in the region may threaten to increase the spread of COVID-19.

“Subsidised al fresco dining, socially-distanced family BBQs, park picnics, cycling and running, drive-in cinemas and queueing outside shops all work well in balmy weather, but will lose their appeal when the weather turns colder,” Cope explained.

“The paranoia that will accompany the first autumnal sniffles will also leaden the mood, as well as potentially knocking returning confidence in offices, bars and restaurants. In Australia, we’ve seen numerous brand responses aimed at countering this economic and emotional gloom, whilst raising physical and mental wellbeing.”

Mintel’s data also revealed that a quarter of Australians were giving higher priority to their hobbies in late July and the pent up desire was strongest for post-lockdown holidays and dining out, rather than leisure activities. However, it is eSports that have shown some of the most impressive performances during lockdown, with the month between March and April witnessing a 50% growth in traffic on video game streaming site Twitch.

“Longer-term, it’s easy to see these activities supplanting increasingly expensive activities like socially-distanced dining, leisure and fitness, shorn of summer and incentives during recession,” Cope said.

“It’s obvious that virtual entertainment can still provide an answer for many,” he added, but argues that practical solutions offered by e-Commerce can attain greater meaning second time around, with campaigns and retail “leveraged to inspire optimism, by reaching out to people through gifting or supporting local and national economies.”

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