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Understanding the New
Consumer Mindset

8 ways the coronavirus crisis is impacting restaurant purchasing behavior

Consumers are drastically cutting back on restaurant purchases, scrutinizing the cleanliness of operations and seeking solace in familiar comfort foods, according recent research from Chicago-based firm Datassential. While the long-term impact of the coronavirus crisis on consumer behavior has yet to be fully revealed, multiple Datassential surveys taken in late March the pandemic unfolded offer a glimpse into the consumer psyche. Here are eight key insights into the fast-evolving mindset of today’s consumer.

Consumers Are Shying Away
From Restaurants

More than three-quarters of respondents say that have at least some concerns about patronizing restaurants now, with many of them saying they will eliminate restaurant purchases entirely.
Older Consumers Are More Cautious

Concern about restaurant safety is greatest among older consumers, with 77% of baby boomers saying they will definitely avoid eating out. In contrast, 50% of Gen Z consumers said they would be avoid restaurants.


say they will definitely avoid eating out


are nervous, but will still eat out


have no concerns

But People Are Eager to Get Back to Dining Out

Even though much of the country remains under guidance to stay home and practice social distancing, consumers are eager for the day they can begin socializing over a meal again. Here’s what they’re looking forward to most.

Dining at my favorite sit-down restaurant

Visiting movie theaters, shipping centers, etc.

Meeting friends and family at restaurants


Meeting at a friends house for picnics or potlucks


Attending events at stadiums or arenas

Drive-Thru Service is Viewed as the Safest Restaurant Option
Restaurants around the country have shifted to off-premise sales as state and city mandates forced operators nationwide to close their dining rooms. Options range from “contactless” delivery to carefully regimented pickup programs. Restaurants with drive-thrus may have an edge, as survey respondents say they perceive that as the safest approach.

In this current climate, which of the following would you be very willing to do?

(Percentage of respondents giving each answer)











Cleanliness is the Top Priority

Taste, long the primary factor for choosing a restaurant, has been edged out by cleanliness in the current environment. Here are the top five qualities consumers now look for in a restaurant.

1. Clean and sanitary

2. Great taste

3. Nearby

4. Value

5. Speed

Cleanliness Protocols Will Be UnderNew Scrutiny

As restaurant dining rooms reopen, customers will expect operators to walk the walk as far as cleanliness. Here are the top visual cleanliness cues that survey respondents consider “absolutely required.”

1. Regularly wiping down tables, kiosks and other surfaces

2. More food covers and sneeze guards

3. Offering disinfectant wipe to guests

4. Employees wearing masks, gloves or hairnets

5. Displaying food safety inspection results 6. More space between tables/no communal seating

They’re craving comfort food

Hearty, classics dishes — especially ones that can stand up to takeout and delivery — are what consumers say they want now. Nearly two-thirds of customers, or 63%, said they are likely to order pizza at this time, with about half, or 51%, saying they want burgers and sandwiches. Here are the five menu items customers want most from restaurants now.

1. Pizza

2. Burgers and Sandwiches

3. Meat entrees

4. Pasta

5. Side dishes

Customers are responding to creative marketing and menu tactics

Restaurant operators are pulling out all the stops to create offerings that will bring customers back in these challenging times. Here are five that are resonating the most.

What would motivate you to get food from restaurants during this time of Coronavirus?

(Percentage of respondents giving each answer)