Health to Remain Top Priority Post-Pandemic

Health and safety will remain a top concern for consumers once stay-at-home restrictions are lifted, according to a survey by Inspire PR Group.

The majority surveyed want grocery stores and restaurants to have employees wear face masks and encourage social distancing.

“These findings contribute data to what we’ve believed to be true, that both restaurants and groceries should prepare to meet consumer expectations for health and safety for some time to come,” said Hinda Mitchell, president of Inspire PR Group. “Clearly defined protocols around how these businesses will keep their customers safe—mostly from other customers—will be critical to restoring trust and confidence.”

All restaurant sectors, with the exception of fast food and quick-service, saw dramatic decreases during restrictions, but most sectors are projected to see a return to pre-COVID-19 levels of visits. Dine-in visits will increase but not to pre-stay-at-home levels, as 45% of people will dine inside a restaurant soon after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted versus 67% pre-COVID-19 restrictions.

Thirty-seven percent of diners are extremely or very worried about getting sick from other customers if they eat inside a restaurant. Still, the use of drive-thru, carryout, and food delivery is projected to decrease significantly.

Darden Restaurants opened most of its 100 restaurants in Georgia for dine-in service April 27, with some Tennessee locations opened as well, reported MarketWatch (April 29). All workers will be wearing masks, the dining room layous have been changed in order to promote social distancing, and, in keeping with re-opening rules issued by the state, Darden will only serve six parties of six or fewer.

State guidelines limit the number of guests inside restaurants to no more than 10 people per 500-sq. feet of dining space. The company also said tables are disinfected after every guest, there’s frequent hand washing among staff, and workers have their temperatures checked before each shift.

Additionally, although online grocery chains saw a surge of new users in April, these platforms are likely to see significant declines back to pre-COVID-19 levels, or lower, after restrictions are lifted. Of the recently acquired shoppers, more than one-third are unlikely to use online pickup and about half are unlikely to use online delivery after restrictions are lifted. However, stockpiling is likely to continue as four in 10 respondents say they are very likely to keep buying and storing extra nonperishables and household supplies.

Meanwhile, Costco Wholesale Corp. will require its customers to wear masks or face coverings starting May 4, reported The Oregonian (April 29). The company plans to restore normal hours at most of its stores and gas stations on the date. Some stores will be open only for members 60 and older, as well as people who have disabilities, during certain times.

“The use of a mask or face covering should not be seen as a substitute for social distancing,” Costco said. “Please continue to observe rules regarding appropriate distancing while on Costco premises.”