For Loftis, the debate isn’t so much about closing restaurants and flattening the curve—that’s a necessary reality—but why dining concepts have absorbed such a swifter blow than grocery stores?
“Obviously you don’t poo poo the grocers and what they’re doing, but man, it just feels like we’re the redheaded step child for whatever reason,” he says.
Essentially, why do the vast majority of Americans consider grocery stores safer than restaurants?
In the first Datassential coronavirus report, back on March 12, which feels ages ago, the company asked 1,000 consumers, “thinking of COVID-19, which do you feel safer eating?”
Almost 90 percent (89) picked grocery stores/food from home. Also, 69 percent of people said they planned to increase how much they cook at home. That as 54 percent expected to decrease restaurant visits. And this was before the March 16 message landed.
By March 24, to the question, “which of these venues are consumers trying to avoid getting food from,” 29 percent of people said ordering from a restaurant for pickup. Thirty-one percent said restaurant delivery and 28 percent and 31 percent were trying to stay clear of drive thrus.
Grocery stores? Just 16 percent.
Only three days later, Datassential presented this dilemma: “How risky do you consider each of the following places to get food?”
In the “too risky,” distinction, fast food came in at 30 percent; fast casual 37 percent; fine dining 45 percent; and casual sit-down restaurants 52 percent.
Grocery stores? In the same ballpark as before—17 percent.
There are a few things at work, and not all of them are tied to perception. The FDA recommended customers should buy enough food for a week or two at a time. You simply can’t do that in a restaurant.
There are scores of people who don’t want to leave the house at all right now, even to go grab pickup. So they’d rather stock up as much as possible and lock the front door.
Some people don’t trust delivery drivers (this is something that affects grocery orders, too, although that’s still surging well above normal levels in recent weeks). Black Box said Thursday, for two consecutive weeks, guest satisfaction for takeout has grown more positive while delivery satisfaction tracks more negative. It added grocery stores sales stabilized a bit in the period leading up to March 27, with year-over-year growth of 15.5 percent. The previous period it soared 73.6 percent. This is likely the result of people trying to make their last trip’s haul last, to the FDA’s early April two-week suggestion. Online grocery sales growth remains high, however, up 62.3 percent.