Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Shift to home cooking poses further threat to the on-trade

Published:  13 May, 2020

More time to spend cooking and access to creative culinary content online could pose a major hurdle to a restaurant industry which is now preparing to get back on its feet.

Lockdown has only been underway for a matter of weeks since the government closed the nation’s bars and restaurants on 20 March. However, some of the first consumer-focused data showing pre- and post-lockdown attitudes has shown that even in that short time a major shift is afoot in how people are preparing and eating food.

The first-look data from Touchpoints, debuting with Harpers this week, shows how these behaviours are being ‘unlocked’ by lockdown. For example, without access to social spaces such as pubs and bars, time spent drinking alcohol has shrunk by 10%, while at the same time, a greater focus on health and wellbeing and hobbies has seen a 21% rise in time spent preparing food and cooking, a 9% increase in number of people saying they enjoy cooking, 16% increase in the number of people actively trying to eat their five-a-day fruit and vegetables, a 21% increase in the number of people saying they prefer to eat organic food, and a 5% increase in the number of people looking for healthy food products.

With the easing of lockdown and a gradual on-trade reopening on the horizon, and with on-trade operators now focusing on how to create safe and attractive spaces for consumers to visit, these shifts in behaviour could have a significant impact.

“The absence of pubs, bars and restaurants to visit seems to show that people are re-thinking their previous habits and are more health focused,” said Simon Frazier, senior research and marketing manager at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, which produces the Touchpoints research annually.

“The latest data shows that during the lockdown, people are spending less time socialising and interacting with friends and more time on exercise and hobbies like cooking, which means it could take longer for the restaurant trade to get back on its feet. The shareability of food and the creativity and sharing online are all going to make the recovery of the restaurant industry more difficult as behaviour becomes more entrenched and people discover they can do more themselves,” Frazier added.

This shift could add another layer of difficulty for both the restaurant and alcohol sectors, which have already seen stiff competition from the likes of Deliveroo over the past few years.

Both Deliveroo and rival UberEats are food-led services that almost entirely eliminate wet-led sales – a major profit driver for the restaurant industry.

Cooking at home could now exacerbate those trends, particularly as the struggle for these services has always been to recreate the restaurant experience at home. 

With Deliveroo and UberEats, food doesn’t always travel well or ends up arriving cold, whereas cooking at home doesn’t present these issues. 

Frazier added: “Even the lower percentage point increases are larger than we would expect to see within a longer period. The current situation is definitely having a big impact on consumer behaviour.”

The findings are further underlined by the amount of food consumed out of home.

Pre-lockdown, a massive 30% of all calories consumed were made and consumed outside of the home across cafeterias, restaurants, bars, cafes and pubs.

When lockdown hit, it left farmers “stranded without custom” as the products produced for the out of home market are not the same as the ones purchased at shops and supermarkets.