In an April 3 1,000-consumer study conducted by Datassential, 64 percent of people said they were still “definitely” afraid of dining out. That’s a 44 percent hike from March 10. Twenty-one percent said they were “nervous,” but would still eat out (down 18 percent since March 10); and 15 percent said they had no concerns whatsoever (a drop of 26 percent over that same timeframe).
For the “definitely not” category, here’s how it broke down by demographic:
- Men: 60 percent
- Women: 67 percent
- Gen Z: 50 percent
- Millennials: 58 percent
- Gen X: 61 percent
- Boomer: 78 percent
- Married: 66 percent
- Single: 57 percent
- With kids: 55 percent
- No kids: 68 percent
Over the weeks, “single” and “Gen Z” have mostly hung near the bottom. So can you safely guess those two groups will be the first to come back out? Maybe. Throwing darts at coronavirus trends is thing is like aiming a pin needle at a bottle cap. Everything could change before you let go.
Elliott says he knows people in the industry who feel differently and expect a quick rush back to business. “Frankly, I hope they’re right and I’m wrong,” he says.
Today, however, there’s no denying the widespread paranoid. Rightfully so. "And I just don’t think they’re just going to rush out overnight and everything is going to be back like it was," Elliott says.
How Beef ‘O’ Brady’s expects this to go:
If dining rooms reopen in May, sales could shift from down 60 percent, as they are today, to roughly 50 percent. Elliott says business should then improve significantly in July to negative 20 percent, year-over-year, and then 10 percent in August. And by September, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s comparable sales decline will be about 5 percent. Toward the last quarter of the year, sales will approach flat, year-over-year.
In total, COVID-19 would imprint an eight-month dent into the company’s business.
Yet this hangs by a fragile thread, too, Elliott admits. The model depends on the coronavirus not coming back in the fall, which some experts anticipate. And, critically, whether or not pro and college football returns. If it’s cancelled, all bets are off, Elliott says.
For bar and grill chains like Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, a year without football weekends would be nothing short of catastrophic. Especially compounded with this spring’s setback.
“Hopefully by the end of the year there’s a vaccine or there’s effective treatments,” Elliott says. “And there’s testing more widely available with quick results. If you have those three things, I think we’ll get back to normal way faster. But I think it’s going to be touch and go until there a vaccine, until there’s a more effective treatment. There’s essentially no treatment right now.”
Given those realities, it’s hard to imagine government directives providing enough incentive to get people to drop social guardrails. It’s why restaurants are going to have to continue pushing the envelope, even if officials reopen the economy. Sanitization measures and other food safety efforts are going to be as important as they were the first week of March.
And to Elliott’s point, the potential of half-closed dining rooms and reduced hours appears very real.
There are other changes Elliott expects to carry through. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s has started offering different variations of its menu to better fit to-go and delivery orders, including meal plans, grocery offerings (in certain spots), and beer and wine where possible. You can check out the menus below.
“Everybody is getting a lot of experience in their takeout and delivery business, online ordering, all those things,” Elliott says.
In the opening weeks, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s offered 20 percent off all delivery orders to introduce the service to customers. It then developed five different family meals, which have been the most popular off-premises bundles in the company’s history thus far, Elliot says.