Major Trends from 6 Months of COVID-19

Over the past 6 months since the pandemic began, COVID-19 has drastically changed the landscape. In today's Briefing, we look at the themes and trends that have emerged from our 80+ webinars.

This free analysis is a recap of the biggest trends from our past COVID-19 Briefing webinars - the new customer journey, changing consumer attitudes, the race to digital, retail stock-ups and trip consolidation, the fate of restaurants, and more.

The five key trends that have emerged over the last 6 months are:
 
  1. Lifestyle changes: the disappearance of work commutes and the increased focus on value.

  2. Delivery surge: The massive growth of digital / off-premise purchasing.

  3. Geographic divergences: How restaurants and retailers have performed during COVID is heavily influenced by where they are located.

  4. Media narratives: Consumers change their behavior in reaction to news stories and government influence, even if they're skeptical.

  5. Pessimism about the future: Consumers don’t clearly see an end in sight when it comes to the pandemic ending and life returning to normal.

 

Key Trend #1: Lifestyle changes

 

The disappearance of work commutes

The pandemic forced many workplaces to shut down, leaving Americans either working from home or not working at all for several weeks/months.

Not only were many restaurants closed for dine-in service, but pick-up and drive-thru occasions started disappearing as well - especially ones like the commuter breakfast on the way to work.
 
Below is a graph showing the total volume of foot traffic visits to restaurants, compared to a pre-pandemic baseline in February. The biggest declines in foot traffic happened during late March and early April. Breakfast foot traffic was down -65%, 
 
Late Night occasions also suffered, down -74% during the height of the pandemic. As the population became more cautious and many states locked down, the opportunity for late-night social occasions saw a huge decline. There may have also been some disruption among people who work a non-traditional work schedule, who otherwise may have frequented restaurants during this daypart.
 
daypart-1In recent weeks, Breakfast has begun to recover - now down only -37%. But Late Night is still suffering, down -49% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
 
The increasing focus on Value
 
In a nationwide survey of the general population, we asked consumers "What, if any, are the top factors that have influenced your recent food decisions the most?" The top seven answers by percentage of respondents during the week of 8/28-9/3 are shown here. 
 
  • 25% - I am being more conscious about eating healthy foods
  • 25% - Nothing is influencing my food decisions
  • 18% - I am not receiving my usual income
  • 16% - I'm seeking options that don't require me to leave my house
  • 14% - I'm seeking food that hasn't been touched/prepared by other people
  • 12% - I'm trying not to deplete my food supply at home
  • 11% - I'm not commuting to work daily
  • 10% - My kids aren't at school daily
The economic shutdowns not only disrupted commute and social occasions, but they hurt consumers' income levels. 18% of respondents reported that they're not receiving their usual income, and it had an impact on their recent food decisions.
 
Another sign of the times is the strong performance of Dollar Stores during the pandemic. We examined shopper spending trends using our credit/debit transaction panel of 6 million consumers. When looking at spend per panelist across all food channels (both restaurant and retailers) Dollar has seen the highest growth in share of wallet - up 23% year over year. Dollar Stores' inherent focus on value has made it an attractive option for shoppers whose income has been disrupted.
 
A major trend throughout the pandemic has been the shift to sourcing food from retailers instead of restaurants. Our surveys showed that the #1 reason why people chose to grocery shop instead of get food from a restaurant was affordability.
 
why-retail-not-restaurant-2
Other answers not shown above include 'Store was closer than any restaurant (14%),' 'Didn't want to travel to/enter a restaurant (14%),' and 'Didn't want a restaurant worker touching my food (9%).'
 
This free report dives into four more major themes that have arisen during the pandemic:
 
2. Delivery surge: The massive growth of digital / off-premise purchasing

3. Geographic divergences: How restaurants and retailers have performed during COVID is heavily influenced by where they are located.

4. Media narratives: Consumers change their behavior in reaction to news stories and government influence, even if skeptical.

5. Pessimism about the future: Consumers don’t clearly see an end in sight when it comes to the pandemic ending and life returning to normal.
 
 

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