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        4 min read

        Changes in Consumer Habits | A Closer Look at the Restaurant Industry

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        At the start of June, we released the first survey report in our series on Changes in Consumer Habits. This report focused specifically on the Future of Retail and on how purchasing habits have changed due to business closures, shelter-in-place restrictions, and social distancing guidelines.

        This week, we are pleased to share our findings on changes in consumer habits as they pertain to Restaurants and Food Service Establishments.

        The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19. With virtually no foot-traffic, restaurants have been forced to change how they operate, reducing the size of their workforce, and using technology — in many cases for the first time — to help automate and streamline their operations and payment processes.

        In this report, we look at the implications that COVID-19 has had on consumer habits as they pertain to the consumption of take-out and dine-in food and beverages, as well as how the restaurant industry will need to adapt in order to meet new health and safety guidelines.

        Here are some of the key findings observed from the 2000+ survey responses received.

        cleanliness top priority

        #1 Cleanliness Remains a Top Priority

        Similar to what we found in our earlier study on the retail industry, cleanliness remains a number one priority for consumers. However, when it comes to food and drinks, quality and convenience can make or break a transaction.

        Over 2/3 of our respondents stated that they have continued to engage with food service establishments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Half of our respondents felt that quality of food was very important when making the decision to order prepared food, however, 60% of respondents stated that cleanliness of the establishment was of the uttermost importance to them.

        Making sure that your operational procedures related to cleaning and sanitization are highly-visible and are a customer-facing activity, will go a long way in setting your customers at ease. For example, by visibly sanitizing your POS terminals between customers and transactions, you provide customers with confidence that you care about their well being and are taking necessary precautions to keep them safe.

        take-out is a priority

        #2 Embrace Online Payment and Ordering

        When it comes to purchasing prepared food, take-out and drive-through have been the most popular way to engage with a food service establishment. In recent weeks, 85% of our survey respondents ordered take-out, and 81% of respondents purchased food or drinks through a drive-through window. Collectively, over 50% of respondents are engaging with a food service establishment on a weekly basis.

        If you are new to selling online and looking to introduce curb-side or in-store pick-up, note that 78% of our respondents said they would prefer to pay in advance, online, as opposed to paying at the door at the time of pick-up.

        Restaurants and food service establishments must ensure that their online ordering capabilities are optimized for seamless and easy experiences that mirror the service and quality that consumers would expect to receive in person.

        Also, it’s worth noting that only 28% of our respondents ordered food using a third-party delivery service. This speaks to the importance of ensuring that your business has autonomy over its own online presence and ordering capabilities, so you can supplement the services of third-party providers. You can see them as a nice to have, not a need to have in order to continue doing business.

        Third-party delivery services can offer easy in-app and online payments in the interim, but you should work with your hosting provider, POS supplier, and web designer to add this functionality to your own digital properties. That will ultimately have stronger ROI for your brand long-term, and position you in the best possible way for this new reality.

        self service vs crew service

        #3 Crew-Service Over Self-Service

        Our survey also identified that self-service, as it pertains to the purchasing of prepared food and beverages, is not something consumers are particularly interested in at this time. Our respondents shared that 60% would prefer crew-service when purchasing coffee, and 64% of respondents said the same when purchasing prepared food.

        Again, this ties back to visual cleaning standards and employee training. Consumers feel that crew-service will be better managed, with stricter standards in place, in compliance with health and safety guidelines. Self-serve is dependent on the general public being compliant and following instructions, which is harder to track, enforce, and manage.

        Embrace crew-service, your business can use it as a way to rebuild your workforce, to deliver personal experiences, and keep your customers safe and comfortable, all aiding in repeat business and positive word of mouth.

        The time to act is now.

        We are entering into a recovery phase. Now more than ever businesses should be actively listening to their customers in order to understand their concerns and identify their pain points. You need to be able to anticipate consumer needs, and visibly reinforce your operational standards to create a sense of security and comfort. Things may never go back to the way they once were and consumer habits have evolved. Your business needs to do the same. If your customers find it easy to engage with your business, and feel safe and comfortable while doing so, they’ll keep coming back.

        To read the full survey report and to get deeper insights around changes in consumer habits in the restaurant industry, click here.

        You can also download the first report, on the Future of Retail, here.

        For additional survey points and data insights please contact letschat@intouchinsight.com.

        Intouch is trusted by over 300 of North America's most-loved brands for our mystery shopping, operational and compliance audits, customer surveys, mobile forms, and Customer Experience Management software.