5 ways Covid-19 will change the way we eat out

5 May 2020
Author: Linzi McGuire

As lockdown grips half the planet’s population at least to some extent, a lot is changing in the way we live our lives day-to-day.

The way we eat out may be changing forever as we see new habits adopted during lockdown, new health and safety concerns from consumers, and a number of new industry trends emerging. Based on recent trends, research and expert opinion, here’s 5 ways we think that covid-19 will change the way we eat out.

1. Many food service outlets will never reopen their doors, while some will have the brand strength and consumer volume to sustain success

The hit that the foodservice sector has taken because of Covid-19 is clear. In fact, the damage may be worse than first predicted as Caterlyst’s latest survey reports that 42% of outlets claim they won’t survive or aren’t sure if they’ll survive covid-19, meaning nearly half are at risk of remaining closed forever.

The long-term pain is likely to be felt in the middle-market as financial pressure makes consumers rethink what’s important to them. Fast food chains who offer cheap eats will thrive, and the top of the market (think Michelin-starred restaurants and fine dining) will bounce back.

With queues forming across Europe where consumers eagerly await the likes of McDonalds to reopen their doors, the same is likely to be seen in the UK and Ireland.

At the top end, these consumers less likely to be as heavily financially affected as the masses. Combine that with a sector that is used to less frequent covers, more exclusive opening times, high average spend per table and it’s clear to see that these establishments aren’t going anywhere. 

2. The way food service outlets operate will be forced to change, but how?

Long gone may be the days for packed restaurants and bustling cafes 7 days a week, but it’s unlikely that a meal out for special occasions with groups of friends and family will go away entirely, so how will it change post covid?

Socially distanced tables? Limiting numbers of people in venues? Reduced server interaction? Mandatory cashless payment methods? Stricter H&S measures? Advanced booking becoming essential? Expect all of these to feature in the new normal.

Helen Sheridan, McCurrach Customer Development Director comments “I see app technology that allows consumers to place their orders remotely, particularly in cafes and food-to-go, becoming more common. Consumers will demand more efficiency and less server interaction to limit germ exposure. We’re already seeing these being used in places like Pret a Manger and it’s likely that other outlets will adopt the same approach.”

3. Increase on delivery for outlets who never offered this service before

Delivery is on the rise with more pubs and restaurants signing up to the likes of Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats where they have never offered delivery before. Gone are the days when pizza, Indian or Chinese were your only choices. And we’ve also seen an increase of licensed venues offering alcohol delivery services.

For many, this could be the safe alternative to dining out, and for food service outlets it’s a good adaptation to make some money when lockdown rules are in force. Now to get the delivery menu just right

4. Fine dining delivered to your home

A trend that has emerged in some of the bigger UK and Ire cities is that there has been a surge in top restaurants offering consumers the opportunity to fine dine in style from the comfort of their own homes, including Michelin star establishments.

As an example, in London, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of restaurants subscribing to SUPPER, a high-end food delivery app, while some are offering direct delivery from the restaurant. It’s not exclusive to London though, in Glasgow and Edinburgh, experimental and experiential restaurant Six by Nico has launched “Nico at Home”, selling out their last registration for ready to bake meals paired with exquisite wines in just 10 minutes. And in Dublin, there's a similar trend with local restaurants offering DIY meals kits on a subscription basis instead of takeaway options.   

These meals are best enjoyed in your fineries but can also be devoured in your pyjamas if you don’t feel likely getting your glad rags on.

5. Home cooking will make a resurgence

Home cooking is on the rise as consumers focus on their health, are at home more, pass the time with home cooking and work within constrained spending.

And, we can see the effect of this in the supermarkets. Some items that are becoming increasingly difficult to find. At first it was pasta; now it’s flour.

“Food preparation at home will stick – people are searching for more and adventurous recipes on the internet as well as getting back to basics on raw ingredients. This transition to home cooking could also result in an increase in sales of cooking staples and gadgets.” says Lindsay Hey, McCurrach Technology Director.

Is homemade banana bread the new normal? While that particular trend might not be here to stay, in the wake of a recession, cooking at home for the vast majority is.

In conclusion, Covid-19 will change we way we eat out forever, from eating in becoming the new eating out to social distancing in a highly social environments. There’s a lot that businesses in this sector can do to succeed, but one thing that’s not an option is change will need to happen fast to survive, and thrive. 



For more information on Helen Sheridan, Customer Development Director, visit her LinkedIn page. 

For more information on Lindsay Hey, Technology Director, visit her LinkedIn page