- A new survey from Tripleseat finds that 49% of consumers said they will not change their holiday plans this year due to COVID-19. For a majority of those consumers (86.4%), that means an at-home gathering with a home-cooked meal, versus 2.8% who dine out.
- Nearly 30% of consumers plan to attend or host an at-home gathering with home-cooked food as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 16.6% of consumers plan to order a to-go meal or cater from a restaurant. Most consumers plan to gather with six to 10 people, and over 30% plan to use a catering service for their gathering.
- Tripleseat’s survey also suggests restaurants offer to-go holiday meals or a-la-carte options, as well as value-focused catering promotions to attract more consumers. Creating delivery promotions specifically aimed toward small groups may be one way restaurants can optimize sales around the slower holiday season.
Several chains have already started pushing these types of catering and delivery promotions, including Dickey's Barbecue Pit, which is offering new "heat and eat holiday catering options" and steakhouse chain McCormick & Schmick's is selling a full Thanksgiving meal that serves four to six people for pickup. According to Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics, restaurants are going "very aggressively" after a full Thanksgiving meal solution, a move that could be in response to the pandemic crisis environment.
Some restaurants have also already introduced holiday-themed promotions for guests to serve at home, as well. Red Lobster is selling its Cheddar Bay Biscuits in holiday gift boxes, for example, while KFC has unveiled limited-edition holiday buckets to cater to the family meal crowd.
Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to be among the slowest days of the year for restaurants, but most restaurants don't have the luxury of having slow days nine months into COVID-19 disruption, especially as shutdowns re-emerge and sales continue to suffer. This scenario is likely to get worse before it gets better as COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket across much of the country and research ties dining out to increased risk.
Consumers are also especially interested in purchasing restaurant gift cards this year. Over 53% plan to purchase a restaurant gift card this holiday season, and a Blackhawk Network report projects that consumers will spend 29% more this year on restaurant e-commerce gift cards than they did in 2019. Tripleseat recommends setting up an online gift card system to make these transactions easier.
Triplseat also found that 24.6% plan to order a meal kit/recipe box and 18% are interested in buying a restaurant's branded merchandise, posing additional sales opportunities. The firm recommends restaurants offer incentives to book post-holiday parties in the spring 2021 as well. That timeline might be ambitious, however, as COVID-19 vaccines haven't yet been introduced. But there is plenty of evidence showing such pent-up demand for dining out, so consumers might be willing to pay now for the promise of a restaurant experience later.