The latest EY Future Consumer Index, a survey of more than 1,000 UK consumers, has found that only slightly more than a quarter (27%) of the British public is comfortable with eating in a restaurant even as restrictions ease.
More than half of respondents (54%) say it will take months or even longer before they feel comfortable eating out.
A smaller percentage of respondents (23%) report feeling comfortable with going to a bar or pub as restrictions ease, while 45% say it will take months before they feel comfortable, and 9% believing it will take years before they feel comfortable going to such establishments.
Comfort levels have increased since the June EY Future Consumer Index, which was conducted before the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was announced. In June, only 19% of UK consumers felt comfortable with eating in a restaurant, while 17% were comfortable with going to a bar or pub.
“The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been a welcome intervention which has undoubtedly boosted both revenues and morale across the hospitality sector, but has only been in place for a limited time to a limited effect,” says Christian Mole, EY UK & Ireland head of hospitality and leisure.
“It’s clear it will still take months before the majority of consumers feel comfortable with eating out so it’s not surprising that businesses are calling for an extension to the scheme beyond 31 August.”
Restaurants located in city centres, where footfall has dropped dramatically as people work from home, will continue to feel the pain, says Mole, who predicts the issue will remain for the short term.
“While there has been an undoubted benefit from increased summer staycation activity in lieu of overseas trips, the hospitality and leisure sector has significant concerns over the level of likely autumn demand, which risks threatening business viability for some,” he says.
“Once the peak summer season and related high leisure traffic is over, many businesses will come under renewed financial pressure, particularly as the furlough scheme comes to an end and tough decisions on headcount need to be made. While social distancing measures continue to limit capacity, ongoing government support will be crucial for recovery.
In the wider leisure sector, less than a fifth (18%) of UK consumers feel comfortable with going to a theatre or cinema and a similarly low proportion (17%) feel comfortable with exercising in a public gym, according to the index.