Will the pandemic have changed consumer habits? Will people revert to old habits in time?

Recent research from the US noted that the pandemic has served as a catalyst for many to review their lifestyles and make real changes. The research noted that:

  • 54% of all consumers, and 63% of those 50+, care more about the healthfulness of their food and beverage choices in 2020 than they did in 2010; healthfulness is the biggest mover, more so than taste and price.
  • Active dieting has grown to 43%.from 33% in 2018
  • 18% use an app or health monitoring device to track their physical activity, food consumption or overall health; 45% of users say it helps greatly; 66% say it led to healthy changes they otherwise wouldn’t have made.
  • 28% of Americans eat more proteins from plant sources vs. 2019, 24% eat more plant-based dairy, and 17% eat more plant-based meat alternatives.

This follows a number of research reports which do suggest that, as many return to workplaces, they will be seeking to consume healthier food and also to see a greater focus on sustainability; not just words but real actions which do make a difference. However, maybe not as many would expect.

  • The pandemic has seen 67% want to do more activities which bring people and communities together – local fairs/festivals, local traditions, cultural activities and customs.
  • 58% of people expect to eat out in restaurants as much as they did in pre-pandemic days. The difference is that they expect to eat more in the neighbourhood rather than in the city centres.

How will this impact on operations post-pandemic?

It is unclear bar there is a general acceptance that city centres do face the greatest challenge in rebuilding as so many operations are carrying great debt and will need to restructure combined with the fall in travel. It has been estimated that close to 40% of restaurants will need to restructure in one form or another. There is also concern that, with the fall in travel, this will impact on spend in major hotels and fine dining restaurants. It is a challenge.

Of course, it follows that casual dining and healthy eating concepts could well thrive and prosper post-pandemic if the above trends are reflected in the UK.

The view is that many cities will work to reinvent themselves to also become greater cultural hubs which serve to attract in new audiences and visitors. As with all great challenges, as dark as it may seem, often the net result is real progress and development in new areas and it may well be that the culture and arts industry sees a new era emerge as there is a strong demand for such activities. Maybe after a very tough two years, they can see a brighter future ahead?

As seems the norm at this time, maybe more questions than answers and that is what this period is so difficult for many operators. It is very hard to understand how the consumer will have changed until there is hard evidence which is tried and tested. Many argue things will revert in time but will they?