LAST UPDATE: FEB. 24, 2021

Tracking the Return to Normal: Dining

Morning Consult is tracking how safe Americans feel dining out at restaurants in light of the COVID-19 pandemic
By: Alyssa Meyers


This tracker is part of a series from Morning Consult gauging when consumers will return to normal activities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more and sign up for alerts.

The restaurant industry, like many others, was hit hard when states across the country first went into lockdowns, and businesses had to rely solely on takeout and delivery to stay afloat. Restaurants have since been able to reopen their dining rooms to various degrees, and though it may take time for the industry to fully recover, Americans are missing the pre-pandemic dining experience. Since Morning Consult began tracking comfort levels in spring 2020, Americans have consistently said the activity they are more comfortable with is dining out.


Comfort With Restaurants Hits Another High, a Trend for 2021: In Morning Consult’s final survey of 2020, 34 percent of the public said they would feel safe dining out, a share that, at the time, had never reached above 41 percent. Things started to change in 2021: The share of people who said they’d feel comfortable at a restaurant ticked up to 38 percent by mid-January, held steady at 44 percent for three weeks, set a record at 45 percent in mid-February and then did so again at 47 percent as of the most recent survey.

Growing More Comfortable With Indoor Dining, Americans Still Prefer Outdoors: Despite cold weather in much of the country, Americans are much more comfortable with outdoor dining than indoor dining. Fifty-six percent of U.S. adults said they currently feel safe sitting down for a meal outside, compared to 44 percent who said so about indoor dining, increases for both categories that leave a 12 percentage point gap between them.

Share of Americans Who Predict They’ll Feel Comfortable Dining Out Within Six Months Jumps to 63%: That share increased during the last days of January but evened out again through much of February. Fifty-nine percent of adults said they thought they’d feel comfortable dining out within the next six months as of mid-February, a share that rose 4 percentage points to 63 percent as of the latest survey. The share who said they anticipate feeling comfortable within the next month increased from 35 percent to 37 percent during that time.

Comfort Dining Out Among All Adults Reaches New Record High at 47%
The share of respondents who said they feel comfortable going to a restaurant or cafe right now:
Weekly surveys are conducted among roughly 2,200 U.S. adults and have a margin of error of +/-2%.

Consumers Predict When They'll Feel Comfortable Dining Out
Respondents were asked when they would feel comfortable going to a restaurant
Weekly surveys are conducted among roughly 2,200 U.S. adults and have a margin of error of +/-2%.

39% Ordering Takeout at Least Weekly, Compared to 26% Dining In at Least Weekly
Adults were asked how often they do the following activities right now
Survey conducted Feb. 18-20, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults with a margin of error of +/-2%.


When will things return to normal and what will our new normal look like? It’s a question that business, economic and government leaders are grappling with as more and more Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

To help answer this complicated question, Morning Consult is tracking how consumer attitudes are shifting across a wide range of categories, from travel to entertainment to dining, to gain greater insight into not only when consumers will be ready to return to their normal activities, but how their habits will be forever changed. We’ll be updating these pages every week with new data and analyses. Sign up for alerts below.


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