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Acosta Report Details Changes In Consumer Eating And Dining Habits

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Social distancing restrictions put in place due to COVID-19 have dramatically impacted consumer eating habits. COVID Dining Journey: Eating at Home and Away From Home, a new report from Acosta, explores the notable increase in consumers’ preference for at-home dining and provides predictions on eating trends post-COVID.

Acosta’s research found 92 percent of families plan to continue eating together at home at least as often as they do now, if not more often, after the pandemic ends.

“Eating at home became the norm during COVID-19. Our research found 31 percent of families have eaten dinner at home every day since COVID, compared to only 18 percent pre-pandemic. These shifts have significantly impacted the restaurant industry, leading to $240 billion in lost revenue and 110,000 restaurant closures, according to the National Restaurant Association,” said Colin Stewart, EVP of business intelligence at Acosta. “Post-COVID, shoppers believe eating together as a family will continue, and 20 percent even say that it will increase. Consumers supported restaurants during COVID via curbside pickup, drive-thru and delivery options, but now that things are opening back up, timing for the return to indoor restaurant dining still remains to be seen. Thirty percent of those surveyed are not sure or think it will be longer than six months before they dine inside again.”

Acosta’s research provides insight into evolving eating trends and the impact of changing consumer behavior on the food and dining industries, as well as predictions for post-COVID dining including:

COVID Consumer Dining Habits

  • Since COVID, nearly two thirds of shoppers report cooking at home more and eating far more meals at home all the time.
    • Forty-seven percent of adults ate breakfast at home every day since COVID vs. 37 percent pre-COVID;
    • Fifty-three percent of kids ate breakfast at home every day since COVID vs. 48 percent pre-COVID;
    • Forty percent of adults ate lunch at home every day since COVID vs. 26 percent pre-COVID;
    • Forty-eight percent of kids ate lunch at home every day since COVID vs. 33 percent pre-COVID; and
    • Thirty-one percent of families ate dinner at home every day since COVID vs. 18 percent pre-COVID.

Post-Pandemic Trends

  • Research indicates that post-COVID, eating together as a family will stay the same for 72 percent of all households, and 20 percent of households expect to increase this behavior;
  • When asked how long it will be until they eat inside a restaurant again, diners’ answers varied.
    • Thirty percent of shoppers are not sure or think it will be a while before they eat inside a restaurant again; and
    • Twenty-six percent of diners said they will be comfortable within the next week.
  • When eating out in the future, diners will be looking for lower priced meal options, safety precautions, promotions and healthy options.
    • Fifty-one percent of diners will value lower prices the most when eating in restaurants;
    • Forty-three percent of diners will value promotions and limited offers the most when eating in restaurants;
    • Thirty-eight percent of diners will value increased safety features the most when eating in restaurants; and
    • Thirty-seven percent will value healthier options, including high protein, lower sugar or sugar-free, low calorie and locally grown meal choices the most when eating in restaurants.

Acosta’s COVID Dining Journey: Eating at Home and Away From Home report was gathered via online surveys using the company’s proprietary shopper community, conducted between March and April.

Acosta also recently examined the rise of frozen food sales during the pandemic. See story, here.

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