Driving traffic through wholesaler websites

What a couple of weeks its been, with an increasing proportion of us self-isolating and social distancing reducing demand for meals out; combined with a lack of supply as restaurants, pubs and cafes were ultimately mandated to close.

Our Eating Out Panel, a survey of 72,000 consumers a year, has been tracking consumer behaviour and reflecting these changes through our representative sample. Do bear in mind, however, that we ask consumers about their behaviour in the last two weeks; as such this data set represents the period as pre coronavirus uncertainty evolved into peak coronavirus quarantine*.

Unsurprisingly, participation of eating out is already down -1.3pp since January 2020, with breakfast, followed by dinner, the most affected day parts in terms of participation; and dinner seeing a significant decline in frequency vs. January.

Home working hadn’t fully kicked in at this point, demonstrated by minimal change in eating as part of a work-based journey or for a business meeting or meal. We can expect this to drop rapidly in next week’s update following the prime minister’s insistence that people should only travel to and from work if “absolutely necessary”.

Despite the recommendation for increased social distancing ahead of the government-enforced lockdown, many consumers were continuing to eat out to get together with family or friends. At both dinner and lunch this motive was up 1.3pp from January 2020, but our suspicion is that this represented a ‘last hoorah’ knowing that the inevitable lockdown was on its way.

Consumers were already recognising the need to avoid large gatherings, with a decrease of -2.1pp in eating out for special occasions or celebrations.

It is also interesting to note that consumers were increasingly supporting their local independent restaurants during the pre-coronavirus uncertainty. This was particularly noticeable at dinner, with 24% of consumers eating in local independent restaurants, up +2pp since January; and a slightly smaller increase at lunch and breakfast.

Throughout the peak coronavirus quarantine, we will be providing weekly updates to understand what consumers are doing in lieu of their meals out. Watch this space for further updates.  

*Results refer to data collected 16-22 March 2020 


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