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Though it wasn’t until mid-March when the Australian government began announcing social distancing restrictions on dining establishments such as pubs, restaurants and cafes, Australians were already beginning to change their dining behaviour in February, according to traffic share data from global information company, The NPD Group’s ongoing foodservice market research, CREST.
In February 2020, when customers began to practice social distancing, shares of dine in occasions at restaurants dropped four percentage points compared to February 2019. Coffee shops, another on-premises channel where people enjoy their lattes and cappuccinos, experienced a slight traffic decline. There were, however, increases in most of the off premises occasions, including delivery, pick-up, and drive-thru services. In February, off premises dining increased by 10 per cent.
The quick service restaurant (QSR) channel, which represents the bulk of Australian restaurant transactions, saw increases in February 2020 vs. February 2019, with Pizza QSR experiencing the most significant increase, offering one of the most convenient restaurant meals that can be shared and consumed off premise. QSR burger – the industry leader for a couple of years – decreased in traffic.
Younger consumers had stronger increases in raw traffic share while there was a noticeable change in February’s traffic share direction for consumers ages 50-plus. Worried elderly customers followed government guidance to avoid crowded places; and as a result, foot traffic for the 50-plus age group demographic dropped in February 2020 by almost 15 per cent.
“Growth in the Australian foodservice industry has been flat over the last two years, with consumers switching to lower-priced channels like fast food and retail,” said Gimantha Jayasinghe, senior vice president and deputy managing director Asia Pacific at The NPD Group. “The bushfires that relentlessly ravaged the country for weeks had further crippled the already low consumer confidence. Now, the foodservice industry is facing a new challenge as we work to control the spread of COVID-19. The industry is changing very quickly and moving to pick-up and delivery only options. Full-service restaurants and cafes are adapting to the current situation by introducing take away and delivery friendly menus. NPD has also seen strong demand for ‘in-store hygiene’ and ‘contactless’ delivery.”