Consumer confidence slides following 'rule of six' restriction
The new restriction banning gatherings of more than six people from Monday has left nearly a third of consumers feeling less confident about visiting pubs, bars and restaurants, according to a new poll.
Data from CGA's Consumer Pulse Survey revealed that 31% of people said they felt less confident about eating out and only 4% said the new measures had "lifted" their confidence.
The survey also found that 59% of consumers who were intending to go out had either cancelled plans or "would not be making new ones in the future". Around one in seven (15%) of all consumers said they would alter their plans to observe the new regulations and just one in 10 intends to go ahead with their visits regardless.
Hannah Payne, consumer research manager at CGA, said the research highlighted the "fragility of consumer confidence".
She said: "The new restrictions come just as restaurants and pubs were enjoying strong momentum from the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, and they are a warning if it were needed that the road back to normality in the out-of-home sector is going to be very bumpy.
"Many consumers will now be cancelling or changing their plans, and the restrictions increase the pressure on operators to show guests that they can eat and drink out safely. Understanding their anxieties and demonstrating rigorous precautions without compromising the experience of going out for a meal or drinks will be absolutely crucial over the autumn."
The new data echoes reports from operators who said they had noticed an increase in cancellations and a nose-dive in bookings on Wednesday, the day that the announcement was made by prime minister Boris Johnson.
The survey also revealed that consumers had mixed views on the new restrictions, with 43% believing they are "the right course of action" and 23% believing they are "too drastic".
In terms of sentiment across different age groups, data suggests that consumers are "much more likely than average" to feel less confident about visiting pubs, bars and restaurants in light of the tighter restrictions, while younger adults are more likely to press on with their plans to go out.
Panellists at CGA's ‘Redefining the out-of-home experience' webinar on Thursday agreed that the "rule of six" restriction would impact businesses in the run-up to Christmas. Alex Reilley, chairman of Loungers, said: "It's a reminder that this isn't over. There's an argument that we were getting a bit too relaxed as a country – clearly we've got to be very careful, and the sector needs to play its part."