Every week we comb through the news to find employment trends affecting the hospitality industry so you don’t have to. This week’s topic: restaurant consumer sentiment – and how that relates to consumer confidence.  

Restaurant Consumer Sentiment (vs. Consumer Confidence)

As we edge towards the winter, it’s more important than ever to understand how consumers are feeling about dining-in so restaurants can plan for the next several months. There are two key types of metrics that can tell us this information: restaurant consumer sentiment and consumer confidence.  

But what’s the difference? In short, consumer sentiment measures how someone feels about doing something, whereas consumer confidence measures whether or not they will do something. For example, a restaurant consumer sentiment report may ask “How do you feel about going out to eat at a restaurant in the next month?” While a consumer confidence report would ask “How likely are you to go out to eat at a restaurant in the next month?” Although the differences are minor, the intentions of these metrics are to compare willingness and ability (respectively).  

Back in September, we shared an article in the Hospitality in the News series highlighting statistics about consumer confidence in returning to restaurants. Overall, we found that on average 34% of restaurant-goers were comfortable going out in the next month (reported as of September 7th). These numbers appeared to hold steady from an earlier report in June, which showed a similar percentage (40%). Our takeaway was that while full-service dining had seen an improvement since the start of quarantine, attitudes had not changed much month over month –– and that simply being open wasn’t enough to draw guests back in, they had to feel comfortable doing so.  

Recently, a study was published by Black Box Intelligence (and reported by Nation’s Restaurant News) that shows statistics relating to restaurant consumer sentiment. They found that “October became the third consecutive month in which more than 50% of all restaurant-food mentions [on the internet] were classified as positive. This is a substantial increase from the 34% of food mentions that were classified as positive in April.” They also found that more mentions about restaurant service were “classified as positive” at 55%.  

Comparing these two sets of statistics, we can understand the following:  

  • While guests may want to go out to eat, they aren’t fully comfortable doing so yet which will prevent them from taking action.  
  • Despite the growing coronavirus cases, sentiment is increasing as of the last three months.  
  • When the curve begins to flatten, guests will quickly return to dine-in service because their comfort levels will increase.  

The winter will undoubtedly be a trying time for the foodservice industry. With temperatures getting colder across most of the country, restaurants are right in their concern about their ability to continue servicing guests if they can’t do so outdoors. Fortunately, it appears that if businesses can hold on until we see a decrease in COVID cases, customers will be waiting to return.