Port Washington, NY, July 20, 2021 – According to the latest report from The NPD Group, COVID-19 Foodservice Sentiment Study: Europe, a large part of the European* population expects to return to dine-in restaurants as soon as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, with 93% stating they have either already returned to restaurants or expect to be returning to restaurants before the end of the year. But while many consumers expect to go back to dining occasions comparable to what they were doing before the pandemic, one-quarter of them expect to do it less frequently.

Safety measures against COVID-19 are one of the main factors for European consumers when choosing a restaurant, including maintaining the distance between tables at 59%, hygienic cleaning procedures (58%), the availability of outdoor areas (49%), limited capacity (48%), and staff being equipped with masks and gloves (46%).

“In March 2020, 29% of consumers agreed that restaurants were the riskiest places to be infected with COVID-19. Thanks in part to safety measures, which Europeans continue to support, that number has dropped consistently every month and is practically non-existent today,” said Jochen Pinsker, senior vice president Foodservice Europe, The NPD Group.

Prior to the pandemic, 77% of consumers worked in an office or other type of on-site workplace environment. This declined to 57% during the pandemic, and is only expected to increase to 62% after the pandemic. Though the overall impact this will have on the restaurant industry isn’t known, there is no doubt that all foodservice providers will need to shift their businesses to succeed in this ‘new normal’ environment.

The importance of the industry’s digital services during the pandemic cannot be overstated.  Today 43% of consumers say they plan to continue using digital devices to order or pay for food after the pandemic has ended. Almost one-third of Europeans think that a restaurant without digital order services is outdated and old fashioned, meaning digital services have not only affected purchasing behavior but they are also key to the image and perception that the consumer has of any given restaurant.

“The containment measures imposed by governments throughout the pandemic have led to significant shifts in how we operate in foodservice that can overwhelm even the most business savvy in the industry,” said Pinsker. “Whether it’s adopting new technology, delivery or take-away models, providing safe socializing opportunities for consumers, or opening restaurant locations in suburban centers and closer to where more people live, all options should be explored to future-proof businesses while remaining competitive and profitable.”

*Europe 6: France, UK, Russia, Spain, Italy, and Germany