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.

Morning Consult is tracking pent-up demand and excitement for many of the activities listed on this page. Bookmark this page for weekly updates of these figures, and read our deep dive on which industries will see a post-pandemic boom in consumer demand.


  • Comfort With Dining Out Down Slightly From Record High: The share of adults who said they currently feel OK eating at a restaurant is now at 68%, 3 percentage points lower than it was earlier this month, when it reached a record high of 71%. Millennials bucked the trend, with comfort levels among that generation up 4 points from last week to 74%, higher than any other generation. 
  • Comfort With Outdoor Dining Is Still Significantly Higher Than Indoor: With summer in full swing, Americans continue to prefer outdoor dining over indoor dining. There’s been a gap in comfort of roughly 7 or 8 points between the two options throughout the summer.
  • On-Premises Dining Battles Takeout for Dominance: Consumers say they order takeout more often than they dine in at restaurants or get food delivered, but on-premises dining has at times over the summer roughly matched the popularity of takeout, most recently as of a July 8-10 survey, when 38% of consumers said they order takeout at least once a week, and 35% said they dine in at a restaurant that often.

Comfort Dining Out at Restaurants
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%.

Comfort Dining Outdoors v. Indoors
The share of respondents who said they feel comfortable going to an indoor vs. outdoor restaurant or cafe right now
Weekly surveys are conducted among roughly 2,200 U.S. adults and have a margin of error of +/-2%.

How Americans Are Dining
Adults were asked how often they do the following activities right now:
Survey conducted July 22-24, 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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