‘Two thirds of diners plan to return to restaurants after lockdown’

Nearly two thirds of diners plan to return to restaurants once lockdown restrictions are lifted, according to a new poll by Square Meal.

The numbers are positive, though four in five people also said they would be reassured by widely spaced tables and visible hygiene practices, which is a tricky subject in the sector today.

According to a poll of 1,600 diners, half (52 per cent) of respondents said they would be as happy to go to a pub or bar post-lockdown.

The research also found that 60 per cent of diners were as likely to go to a restaurant after the lockdown. Perhaps oddly, many expressed concern over staff wearing masks and other safety precautions. Reservations, then, in every sense.

Still, it shows many are itching to get back to dining out. And perhaps normality really is the word. One respondent said “the appeal of going out to a restaurant would be lessened if it felt like I’m going to a hospital with masks”, while another added “if a restaurant demonstrates compliance with social distancing and scrupulous hygiene then I’ll visit with my family”.

A second survey of 260 restaurant and bar operators conducted by the guide found that 74 per cent were not confident they would survive if they had to adhere to social distancing – this is a common point of concern as the industry looks ahead, beyond coronavirus lockdown.

Over a quarter (26 per cent) said it would be impossible to open under such restrictions, while a further 64 per cent said it would be possible but difficult.

One operator said: “The government has offered some good support so far, but we are worried about the potentially slow pick-up in business. In particular, we feel that there will not be that many higher yield groups, celebrations and events until there is a vaccine and social distancing is relaxed. We fear that the festive season in the run-up to Christmas may be disappointing.

“Currently all our staff are furloughed, but we may well have to let some go once the furlough ends. A lowering of the VAT rate would certainly help and some sort of help with staff costs for the first month or two after we reopen fully.”

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