Operators are urged to lead the way in helping instill confidence in their COVID-19 measures.
45% of Brits do not feel comfortable about visiting on-trade venues for festive celebrations, according to research from CGA and Access Hospitality.
However, 82% of those who have been to a pub, bar or restaurant since restrictions were lifted, agreed that their overall experience reassured them enough to revisit.
“In December 2019, 37.5 million GB UK consumers visited the out of home market and it hosted six of the top ten trading days for drinks for the whole year so the size of the prize this year, when trade has been so badly compromised, should not be underestimated. Christmas is certainly not cancelled, and the most pro-active operators will still be able to influence behaviour to maximise the crucial seasonal trading potential,” Access Hospitality managing director Henry Seddon said.
The research indicated consumers expressed some anxiety and nervousness, but more than a fifth said that they felt hopeful about visiting on-trade venues during this year’s festive period.
A further 28% were unable to predict this far in advance or said that their plans will depend on job security and disposable income nearer the time.
45% of Brits identified that the most important factor for choosing a venue for festive celebrations was the level of COVID-19 safety precautions in place and a further 41% cited levels of hygiene and cleanliness.
The companies said the survey revealed “variations between occasions and consumer groups”, with Christmas parties expected to be a “big casualty” of this year’s celebrations, due to guidelines around social distancing and mixing with other households.
Over a quarter (28%) of those who attended one last year said that they would not feel comfortable doing so again this year.
“There is a delicate balance to strike between different age groups and their levels of concern,” said Seddon.
“Younger consumers (18-34) are more inclined to visit the on-trade, with over a third (37%) already predicting that they’ll go out more frequently or at least as frequently as previous years, but 14% noted that their plans will depend on finances nearer the time. Customers aged between 35-54 are less optimistic, with over half (53%) expecting to go out less frequently than last year, or not at all due to COVID-19.”
“This latest research shows that although the GB on-trade visits are at a point where over half of its customers have now returned (55%), thanks to the help of Government backed schemes such as Eat Out to Help Out and VAT cuts, consumer confidence remains fragile,” added Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality.
“With no clear date for a resumption of functions, events and entertainment, many in the sector face an apprehensive lead up to the festive season – so it is even more critical that we continue to see ongoing initiatives to help support the hospitality sector and critically UK’s third largest private sector employer.”
Respondents also said that they would be prepared to pay more for a limited capacity event (12%) or a pre-booked meal (11%). A fifth of consumers (22%) also said they are more likely to pre-book their festive visits than they did last year although only 15% have started to plan.
“The level of anxiety and uncertainty felt by consumers as we enter the winter season is reflected by 57% of respondents who can’t predict what they will do for the festive season,” Seddon said. “It will therefore be key for operators to lead the way in helping instil confidence in their COVID-19 measures, as well as showing consumers what, when and how to book.”
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