COVID-19 Puts A Chill On Restaurants; Operators Show Creativity And Resilience

Minneapolis (February 1, 2021) – The hospitality industry was among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic that took hold in the U.S. in March. Shelter-in-place mandates forced temporary closures, while social-distancing protocols limited guest capacity when on-premise operations could open.

On the upside, several cities and states relaxed rules on selling alcohol for takeout and delivery during the early months of the pandemic, with some extending these policies indefinitely, according to the Beverage Information Group’s 2020 Cheers On-Premise Handbook. Beer, wine, batched cocktails and cocktail kits for at-home consumption have been popular with on-premise customers. To-go cocktails have contributed to about 20% of revenue for some restaurants.

Restaurants also became stores in some cases, with several offering grocery items as well as prepared food for takeout or delivery. As most guests preferred the safety of outdoor dining, operators got creative in carving out space on sidewalks, in parking lots and anywhere they could, erecting tents, igloos and greenhouses.

In what other ways has Covid-19 affected the on-premise industry? More than a third (33%) of respondents to a Lightspeed/Mintel survey conducted in July 2020 said that they would not feel comfortable sharing a large-format cocktail (such as punch bowl or communal drink).

Most survey respondents (82%) agree that bartenders/servers should wear masks during the pandemic, 66% feel that bar seating should have dividers to make it safer (such as plexiglass barriers), while 55% feel that canned/bottled drinks are safer than a drink served in an open glass.

More than half (52%) of respondents believe that bars/restaurants should have drink limits during the pandemic—for instance, a two-drink maximum. And 42% think that it's safer to drink at a restaurant than a bar during the pandemic.

That said, 34% of respondents said that they miss drinking in bars. Of those interested in ordering alcohol on-premise, 58% said they would order from any location, 37% said they would order from any full-service restaurant chain; 32% said from any bar, 25% said from any limited service restaurant chain.

About the 2020 Cheers On-Premise Barometer Handbook

The Beverage Information Group’s 2020 Cheers On-Premise Barometer Handbook is a comprehensive source of information on U.S. on-premise trends. It includes consumption and projection information by category and by market, tracks leading brands and consumer preferences and demographics. The publications can be purchased at www.bevinfostore.com or by calling Sherai Falcon at 763-383-4423.