April 19, 2021 at 09:03AM

Mass vaccinations in the United States are in full swing, with more than 56 million U.S. consumers fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — and many are eager to go back to dining in restaurants once again.

It is nevertheless clear that consumers may never engage with restaurants as they once did. More than a year of ordering food online has helped them develop a taste for digital ordering options, and this affinity shows no sign of fading. Ninety-two percent of all vaccinated restaurant customers now say they intend to keep ordering online at least somewhat often as they do now, in fact. This signals that the mobile order-ahead, curbside pickup and delivery capabilities that gained traction during the pandemic are here to stay — but which features will they want to use to order their food going forward?

How can restaurants futureproof their brick-and-mortar and digital offerings to ensure that they are providing the features that consumers will come to demand as vaccinations become more widely available and restaurant capacity restrictions continue to ease?

The seventh edition of Delivering On Restaurant Rewards, a PYMNTS and Paytronix collaboration, examines how restaurant customers’ ordering habits are changing as more of the population is inoculated against the virus. We surveyed a census-balanced panel of 1,984 U.S. consumers to find out how those who have already been vaccinated have changed the way they order food, how those who have not been vaccinated plan to order their food once they are inoculated and which ordering features restaurants will need to provide to meet their shifting expectations.

Our research shows that 26 percent of all unvaccinated restaurant customers would make more orders that require physical interactions if they were vaccinated, underscoring a potential boon for restaurants in the coming months. This opportunity is especially acute for independent quick-service restaurants (QSRs), 29 percent of whose unvaccinated customers say they would order in person more often if they were immunized.

This is not to say that restaurants will be able to do away with the digital ordering capabilities they have acquired during the pandemic, however — far from it. Such features will continue to play a key role in driving restaurant customer spend for the foreseeable future, as evidenced by the fact that 32 percent of vaccinated restaurant customers say they would spend more on their orders if they could pay online. There are also 40 percent of vaccinated restaurant customers who would spend more if they could earn loyalty and rewards for their orders, underscoring the continued importance that loyalty and rewards programs are likely to play in the post-pandemic market.

There are still myriad unanswered questions about how mass vaccinations could impact the restaurant industry, however. The latest edition of Delivering On Restaurant Rewards delves into these details.

To learn more about how mass vaccinations are poised to shape the post-pandemic restaurant industry, download the report.

NEW DATA: How Mass Vaccinations Will Shape Consumers’ Restaurant Experiences …

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