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Do Diners Want to Return to Restaurants?

With federal, state and local guidelines ever-evolving, we wanted to know how Americans really feel about dining in restaurants. So Feedback Loop did what we do best: We asked them.

Since May 2020, we’ve been dedicating research resources to informing the public and media about people’s concerns and behaviors related to the pandemic as part of our COVID-19 Research Series. For this installment, we asked more than 300 adult Americans, ranging in age from 18–75 years old, a series of questions related to their current perspective on dining in restaurants. The survey was conducted in early May 2021 via Feedback Loop’s rapid consumer feedback platform, which accesses consumer panels from leading providers across the country to deliver insights within 72 hours. We also compared it to a similar survey we conducted in December 2020. 

In good news for the struggling restaurant industry, it seems the availability of COVID-19 vaccines is having a profoundly positive effect on people’s restaurant attitudes.

In May, we found a whopping 81% of respondents are now willing to dine at restaurants. That’s up from 60% who would do so in December. Overall, 41% of respondents will dine outdoors only — up 8% from December. More males than females prefer to eat outside.

Food & Dining Survey Results

In December, 91% of respondents ages 55–64 were opposed to dining indoors at a restaurant, and 59% of these folks were not ready for restaurant dining at all, inside or outside. That number took a nose dive in May, with just 33% of respondents ages 55–64 indicating they are not ready for restaurants at all.

Of those who are still not willing to dine at a restaurant, many cited more widespread vaccinations as something that would make them feel ready to return to restaurant dining. Adequate social distancing and cleaning procedures were also mentioned as necessary for such a return.

We dug a little deeper and found that, as income goes down, willingness to eat indoors increases: 54% of participants with household incomes of $75,000 or greater prefer an outdoor table, compared with 38% of those with household incomes of less than $75,000. For more of our findings about restaurant attitudes — plus insights on pandemic-induced dietary changes, food-prep and shopping practices, and cooking frequency — see the full results on Feedback Loop’s platform!

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