Ernst & Young’s latest EY Future Consumer Index is showing that the majority of UK consumers are still uncomfortable with eating out. The figures are more than disappointing as they come amidst the government’s Eat Out to Help Out initiative is still ongoing.
The survey of over 1,000 UK consumers found that only 27% is comfortable with eating in a restaurant even as restrictions ease, and 54% say it will take months or longer before they feel comfortable. Even fewer respondents 23% report feeling comfortable with going to a bar or pub as restrictions ease, and 45% say it will take months before they feel comfortable, while 9% say it will take years.
Comfort levels have increased since the June EY Future Consumer Index, which was conducted before the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was announced. In June, only 19% of UK consumers felt comfortable with eating in a restaurant, while 17% were comfortable with going to a bar or pub.
Christian Mole, EY UK & Ireland Head of Hospitality & Leisure, comments: “The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been a welcome intervention which has undoubtedly boosted both revenues and morale across the hospitality sector, but has only been in place for a limited time to a limited effect. It’s clear it will still take months before the majority of consumers feel comfortable with eating out so it’s not surprising that businesses are calling for an extension to the scheme beyond 31 August.”
In the wider leisure sector, less than a fifth (18%) of UK consumers feel comfortable with going to a theatre or cinema and a similarly low proportion (17%) feel comfortable with exercising in a public gym. Thirty-eight per cent feel comfortable with going to a hairdressing salon or spa.
Christian Mole added: “While there has been an undoubted benefit from increased summer staycation activity in lieu of overseas trips, the hospitality and leisure sector has significant concerns over the level of likely autumn demand, which risks threatening business viability for some. Once the peak summer season and related high leisure traffic is over, many businesses will come under renewed financial pressure, particularly as the furlough scheme comes to an end and tough decisions on headcount need to be made. While social distancing measures continue to limit capacity, ongoing government support will be crucial for recovery.
“Continued working from home will mean that take-out and eating-out demand alike in city centres remain at very low levels, and a return to anything like previous commuting levels seems very unlikely in the short-term. Decreased levels of business travel and continuing restrictions on inbound tourism are also placing considerable pressure on the hotel sector, and we anticipate a struggle for many operators to achieve profitable occupancy levels for the foreseeable future.”
Worries over personal finance growing
EY’s Index shows that consumers are becoming increasingly worried about the economic implications of the pandemic.
Sixty per cent of UK consumers are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their job. According to the Index, incomes have decreased for more than a third (35%) of UK consumers, while 9% have lost their income completely. Sixteen per cent of UK consumers say they are reliant on government help to replace or supplement their income. This includes consumers using the furlough scheme, which will stop at the end of October.
Seventy-two per cent are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their personal finances, and almost a quarter (24%) of UK consumers feel more pessimistic about what their financial position will be in a year’s time compared to today. EY’s Index suggests that concerns for the coming 12-months mean that UK consumers are currently taking greater responsibility for their future finances by saving more. Sixty-three per cent of respondents claim to be thinking more carefully about what they spend their money on and 54% are trying to save more money than they were pre-crisis.
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