What will on-premise dining look like this summer?

A survey by CGA Strategy suggests demand is growing, but restaurants and bars with outdoor options are more likely to benefit.

While vaccination efforts are continuing in Canada and providing a light at the end of the tunnel, it may not be until after the summer that they are able to visit restaurants and bars the same way they did prior to the pandemic.

And until that day comes, Canadians may be more likely to satisfy their growing demand for on-premise dining at places that have ample outdoor seating.

That’s based on a survey by CGA Strategy, a research and measurement consultancy focused on the food and beverage space. The firm polled over 5,000 Canadians for the report.

According to CGA’s report, 29% of consumers are planning to visit restaurants in person weekly once restrictions are lifted. The number is significantly higher for those between 18 and 34, 41% of whom are planning weekly restaurant visits. When it comes to bars, 20% of weekly drinkers plan to visit the channel more than they did pre-pandemic.

However, despite vaccination efforts continuing along and making indoor dining a safer option in the near future, outdoor space remains important to consumers throughout the summer. When asked to rank its importance on a scale of one to 10, respondents offered an average score of 7.9. And that importance is consistent regardless of how safe the diner has been keeping over the last year: 34% of consumers who describe themselves as “more cautious” would visit outlets with outdoor patios weekly, compared to 38% of consumers with no concerns at all.

The research does also show that 72% of consumers would still visit a bar or restaurant if it did not have an outdoor patio, but may do so less frequently.

Demand is also different depending on the type of establishment, as well as age group. While 63% of respondents say they would feel comfortable visiting a casual dining chain upon reopening, 48% of 18- to 34-year-olds plan to visit the channel less frequently than older age groups.

Consumers also feel less comfortable with the prospect of visiting a pub or sports bar this summer, but slightly more comfortable visiting a fine dining restaurant or their local neighbourhood bar.

CGA’s research from the U.S. has shown as restrictions ease and capacity occupancy grows, the shift to drink-led channels such as Neighborhood Bars and Pubs will be plentiful. 30% of consumers state they will feel comfortable visiting Neighborhood Bars upon their return, and the ‘support local’ behaviours that has been expressed among consumers will likely drive this.