Recovery Insights

7 key insights into the dining habits of family vs. single households

We asked over 1,200 diners across the U.S. to tell us when they’ll go back to dining in, what eases their concerns, how much they’re interacting with restaurants now, and how their habits have changed.

Impact Reports

Despite COVID-19 cases rising, data for the week ending July 19, 2020, shows restaurant trends in most areas of the world continuing to stabilize and even show some improvements.

  • The US continues to show traffic down between 10% and 15% for the fifth week in a row.
  • Europe saw its second week of increases, with traffic moving up negative 25% to 30%.
  • Asia continues to stay stable at negative 20% to 25% while the Middle East/Africa continues to rise with YOY traffic between negative 15% and 20%.
 

Continued Increase in Business Requirements

Masks, particularly in the US, have been a divisive issue. With each passing week, more and more businesses have made the decision to require guests to wear masks as a part of normal business operations, even where they are not required by law. In other parts of the world, restaurants continue to take precautions. When we spoke to our correspondents in Asia, Winny Daud and Cathy Ko, they informed us that dine-in is still limited to five individuals per table. Contact tracking has been implemented by checking in guests using QR codes. To read more about the current restaurant dining situation in Asia, take a look at our latest blog.

Potential Onset of Delivery Premiums

Menu pricing has been an expected result of rising costs as restaurants deal with post-COVID-19 headwinds. One topic mentioned in last week’s report was the potential of adding surcharges at a restaurant level before including additional third-party charges. In recent weeks, some price increases have been observed, ranging from an additional 10% to even above 20%.

With delivery staying strong even post-market re-openings, there should be an expectation to see possible premiums added in more instances. Our latest insights have shown that customers are more aware that prices will increase and are likely to continue to do so for some time. When we asked US consumers their thoughts on pricing, 79% believed prices would increase as a result of COVID. To learn more about attitudes toward pricing, take a look at our consumer insight reports.

Smaller Footprint, Changing Restaurant Models

With all of the changes brought about as a result of COVID-19, there is speculation that QSR restaurant structures and designs might also need to change to keep up with a flexible future. Some of these changes include smaller interior spaces geared more toward carryout/delivery and additional drive-thru capacity focused on efficiency. Non-QSR is also not immune to potential changes. The increased needs of off-premise dining (and more adjustable dining spaces) may cause many restaurants to rethink their current structural plans.

Restrictions

  • Dine-in without restriction
  • Dine-in with limited capacity
  • Takeout/Delivery Only
  • Closed

Recovery

Brands are looking for solutions that optimize current opportunities and prepare for the next cycle

Our tech-enabled solutions help 100,000+ restaurants drive sales and profitability.

Select a solution to learn how RMS can help your brand through each of the stages:

Respond

Manage the crisis and continue.

Recover

Learn and emerge stronger.

Thrive

Succeed in the “new normal”.

Latest expert advice

Dispatch From Asia: What Does Restaurant Dining Look Like Now?

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How fast casual PDQ continued to serve quality to customers

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Respond

Understand changes in check composition and guest traffic.

Focus marketing efforts on targeted guests/checks.

Recover

Define the best price mix and promotions to optimize margin.

Identify your “new” customer base and what they are buying.

Thrive

Identify the customer types who respond best to specific promotions.

Common profitability questions

How does the current situation impact the results of a test we have currently in the market?

Unfortunately, it may have some impact on the test results. The situation may impact each store/market differently. You will most likely need to make adjustments, such as changing test periods, considering extending them and adjusting early indicative reads.

Should we reduce prices now to attract more customers?

We do not recommend reducing your prices right now. Instead, create bundles and offers that will entice your customers to come back. With most customers being advised to stay at home, think about offers and deals that focus on family meals, portions that could provide ‘left-overs' for next day, value offers that consider kids and support your staff.

Should we take price given the COVID-19 situation?

No, as of right now, we do not recommend making any price increases to offset the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis, even if they were planned beforehand. Doing so could lead to negative repercussions on your brand image because customers won’t see when you made pricing decisions, only when you implemented them. Right now, brands should focus on talking about marketing initiatives and new operating procedures. Customers are paying attention to what you are communicating, and brands with a clear and empathic message will likely be best positioned to gain market share post-crisis.

With that in mind, now is the time to plan and build your post-crisis menu, pricing and marketing strategies for when business resumes. We learned from the dot-com crash back in the early 2000s and the financial crisis in 2008 that brands that were proactive with their strategies during turmoil were well-positioned to execute quickly once business resumed.

COVID-19 has already significantly impacted the restaurant industry. Unfortunately, no reasonable amount of pricing will be enough to offset or recoup some of the potential loss in traffic and sales. Even in areas of the U.S. and countries around the globe where authorities have not yet issued firm restrictions on restaurant and bar operators, we have clearly seen consumer behavior shifting to online channels pre-crisis. It is now essential that brands understand how much of this behavior is here to stay before making informed pricing decisions.

On a positive note, we will most likely observe an increase in consumer traffic once people return to their usual lives, especially in those areas now in lockdown.

Expert profitability advice

Consumer preferences have changed. These insights will help your restaurant recover.

15% of consumers will go back to dining in a restaurant as soon as possible. 35% of consumers report they ordered... more
Jul 15, 2020

Sense360 Briefing with Dora Furman

In this @Sense360 Daily Briefing, RMS VP Dora Furman answers operators’ pressing questions during these unprecedented... more
May 7, 2020
Respond

Identify menu items per sales channel (e.g. delivery, take-out, 3rd party).

Recover

Decide whether to return to your full, pre-COVID menu, or extend you limited menu slightly.

Thrive

Engineer your menu to drive margin, attachment rate and frequency.

Common menu questions

What items should the brand include in their delivery and/or limited menu?

If possible, try to find a good combination of items that offer ease of execution and healthy margins. It is essential to minimize a patron’s time spent in restaurants and during food pickup to honor current social distancing measures.

Ease of execution:

Consider offering bundled items and a menu that will maintain its quality even after the delivery journey. To maintain consistency, select menu items that crew members in all locations can easily assemble and execute. Focus on items that can be packaged quickly to minimize wait time and maximize turnaround, especially if you are working with a smaller staff.

These considerations are particularly important if your concept is new to the delivery/takeout channel and you are in the process of shifting your team’s focus from dining in to off-premise service. Under normal circumstances, your customers might be turned off by ordering from limited menus, but in this new environment, you can expect that most customers will be understanding, adapt quickly and feel grateful that your doors are still open to them.

Overall profitability:

To sustain sales and gross profit, offset overhead cost and maintain cash flow, a speedy and limited menu is the answer. This allows you to remove low-margin items and focus on those that are more profitable and in high demand.

Make sure you build creative marketing and PR messages around your menu. Reward customers as they pick up their orders or have them delivered to entice them to reorder from you and share their positive experience with their online communities. In challenging times like these, positive messages travel well and help build brand loyalty for the future.

What key delivery initiatives should restaurants be thinking about?

Tip #1: Launch take out, curb-side pickup and delivery options if you have not yet done so.

Work at lightning speed and don’t overthink it. Two weeks ago, many fine dining brands had no to-go menu. One week later, they do as they recognized now is the time to get directly to-go. For delivery, don’t forget to include local providers. For a list of delivery services in your area, send a DM to https://www.facebook.com/thermda.

Tip #2: Create a limited menu that can easily be executed and is profitable.

To maintain consistency, select menu items that crew members in all locations can easily assemble. Focus on items that can be packaged quickly to minimize wait time and maximize turnaround, especially if you are working with a smaller staff. To sustain sales and gross profit, offset overhead cost and maintain cash flow, a speedy and limited menu allows you to remove low-margin items and focus on those that are more profitable and in high demand. And keep in mind: first impressions can make or break repeat orders, which are critical in this environment. Whether it’s staples or tape, seal the bag. When the fear of germs is so very top of mind, make it clear to your customer that their bag was impenetrable on its way from your kitchen to their front door.

Tip 3: Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Let your customers know what you are doing and how they can order from you. Make sure you communicate your new opening hours, which services are available, what menus they can order from, what offers you have in place, if you are supporting local emergency response staff, if they can support your business by buying local vouchers, etc. Basically, make sure they know what they can expect from you in these uncertain times.

Expert menu advice

Finding New in the Old: The Rise of QR Codes during the coronavirus pandemic

When it comes to restaurant cravings these days, limited contact is what’s on the menu. In fact, “avoiding... more
Jul 22, 2020

Consumer preferences have changed. These insights will help your restaurant recover.

15% of consumers will go back to dining in a restaurant as soon as possible. 35% of consumers report they ordered... more
Jul 15, 2020

How fast casual PDQ continued to serve quality to customers

Before March 2020, new menus could take a year to launch, with every item in every medium checked and rechecked. But... more
May 26, 2020
Respond

Identify where franchisee support is needed.

Monitor financial ratios and debt covenants.

Recover

Discovery the locations that are under & over performing.

Determine the locations to prioritize efforts on.

Thrive

Recognize franchisees that are ready to grow.

Secure opportunities to optimize cash flow by P&L line item.

Expert financial advice

Respond

Stay up to date on promotional tactics, pricing actions and economic outlook.

Recover

Tap into competitor insights on pricing and promotions.

Thrive

Benchmark against market leaders to evaluate whether to emulate or innovate.

Common consumer behavior questions

How can we best reach customers given the recent rise of digital use?

Create digital audiences with scalpel-like precision. Directly message those most likely to order delivery, online or carryout. Segment your messages to guests who have ordered from you online and from a third party; from those who have searched online for your brand; from guests in your e-club; and to look-a-like audiences who are likely to order online from your brand.

How can we use social media?

Your social presence is critical right now. Check and recheck social media accounts. Amid self-isolating and mandated shelter-in-place orders, it’s safe to assume social media will play an even greater role in our lives. Customer engagement will no doubt increase across all platforms. Pay attention to customer feedback regarding all facets of your brand: accuracy of order, packaging, menu options and delivery experience.

And don’t forget about positive news as well. If you restaurant is doing something to help your local community, let people know! You might inspire others to step up and help out.

What communications are important right now?

Now more than ever, it’s important to communicate your hygiene protocol. State on your website what you’re doing. Don’t assume the general public knows you’re checking temperatures before staff crosses your threshold or that everyone is wearing masks and gloves. Provide peace of mind. Go the extra mile and include a simple insert that tells customers the precautions you’re taking to make sure everyone who comes in contact with their order demonstrates the highest level of hygiene practices.

Share your initiatives on delivery as well. The greatest risks of virus transmission are (so far) associated with interacting with people, not food. Now is a good time to resurrect the childhood prank of ding-dong ditch and use it as a differentiator. The customer orders, and the order is then left at the door with no human interaction. Similarly, for curbside pickup, the less interaction, the better.

Expert customer behavior advice

Dispatch From Asia: What Does Restaurant Dining Look Like Now?

In April, RMS Managing Director Winny Daud shared her insights on Singapore’s response to the pandemic, based on her... more
Jul 29, 2020

Consumer preferences have changed. These insights will help your restaurant recover.

15% of consumers will go back to dining in a restaurant as soon as possible. 35% of consumers report they ordered... more
Jul 15, 2020

European chains face a mixed bag of recovery

When it comes to COVID-19 recovery, countries across Europe have one thing in common: doing their own thing. As a... more
Jun 22, 2020

Sense360 Briefing with Dora Furman

In this @Sense360 Daily Briefing, RMS VP Dora Furman answers operators’ pressing questions during these unprecedented... more
May 7, 2020

Consumer insights

Understanding the restaurant consumer in a COVID-19 world

In this multiple part series, we are analyzing responses of over 1,800 restaurant consumers from 3 major markets (US, UK, and Singapore/ South Korea/Taiwan) to understand their behavior and perceptions on the industry as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold and impact throughout the world.

Series 6 – How did each gender’s relationship with food and their dining habits change during COVID-19?

To find out we analyzed responses from over 1,800 restaurant consumers from 3 major markets (US, UK, and... more
May 26, 2020

Series 5 – How did each generation’s relationship with food and dining habits change during COVID-19?

To find out we analyzed responses from over 1,800 restaurant consumers from 3 major markets (US, UK, and... more
May 15, 2020

Series 4 – U.S. vs U.K. frequent users

While everyone has been affected by COVID-19, that does not mean all consumers will react the same. In this series, we... more
May 5, 2020

Series 3 – U.S. vs Asia frequent users

While everyone has been affected by COVID-19, that does not mean all consumers will react the same. In this series, we... more
Apr 27, 2020

Series 2 – U.S. Frequent users

During the pandemic, frequent users in the U.S. only marginally reduced 'using' restaurants, are mostly concerned about... more
Apr 20, 2020

Series 1 – Common consumer themes

We analyzed responses of over 1,800 restaurant consumers from 3 major markets (US, UK, and Singapore/ South... more
Apr 13, 2020

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recovery strategy

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