LAST UPDATE: MAY 5, 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.

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.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Comfort Dining Out Stays at 60%: Last year, the share of the public who said they would feel safe dining out never passed 42 percent. That share has climbed fairly steadily throughout 2021, with the exception of a couple of declines followed by quick recoveries. For instance, during mid-April, comfort with the activity saw a slight dip from 57 percent to 55 percent of Americans who said they felt safe dining out. As of late April, that share rose to 60 percent, setting a new record for the activity, where it remained as of early May.

Comfort With Outdoor Dining Is Still Significantly Higher Than Indoor: As cold weather ebbs into the spring, Americans continue to prefer outdoor dining. Seventy percent of U.S. adults said they currently feel safe sitting down for a meal outside, compared to 59 percent who said so about indoor dining, increases of 2 percentage points each. That gap in preference has widened and narrowed by small margins through the year, but the difference between the two options has largely remained the same week to week. 

Roughly Half of Americans Predict They’ll Feel Comfortable Dining Out Within a Month: Sixteen percent said they think they’ll feel comfortable within two to three months, while a total of roughly three-quarters (77 percent) of consumers said they think they’ll be comfortable dining out within six months, up 4 points from last week.

Takeout Is Most Popular Dining Option, as Delivery and On-Premise Trail Behind: One-third of consumers said they dine in at a restaurant at least once a week, and 28 percent said they get delivery that often, compared with 42 percent who said they order takeout with the same frequency. 

Half of Consumers Are Excited to Dine Out Again, While About One-Third Already Do: That excitement holds true across generations. Baby boomers have typically shown more hesitation than millennials when it comes to returning to most leisure activities, but 50 percent of the older demographic said they’re eager to get back to restaurants. Forty-eight percent of millennials said the same as the baby boomers. Read more here.

60% of Americans Feel Comfortable 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%.

Americans Prefer Dining Outdoors to Indoors, But Comfort With Both Ticks Up Again
The share of respondents who said they feel comfortable going to an indoor v. 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%.

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%.

42% Ordering Takeout at Least Weekly, Compared to 33% Dining In and 28% Ordering Delivery
Adults were asked how often they do the following activities right now
Survey conducted April 29-May 1, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults with a margin of error of +/-2%.

Half of Americans Excited to Return to Restaurants
Adults were asked how excited they are about the opportunity to return to restaurants once the pandemic is under control and the economy has fully reopened
Survey conducted April 29-May 1, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults with a margin of error of +/-2%.

TRACKING THE RETURN TO NORMAL

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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