Three quarters of respondents to a survey in the United Kingdom say good hygiene will be more of a factor in choosing a restaurant than before the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Results from the second COVID-19 British Foodservice Sentiment Study by The NPD Group show trust will be an important issue as foodservice operators re-open for business.

Almost six out of 10 respondents said restaurants and bars are the riskiest places to be infected with COVID-19, and nearly two thirds said they will only go to restaurants, bars, cafes and other establishments that they trust.

Despite associating foodservice establishments with COVID-19 risks, 63 percent of British consumers say they will return to restaurants, bars or cafes in the first month these places re-open.

Cleanliness priority so people come back
Businesses in England are not legally required to display Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) stickers, but in Wales and Northern Ireland it is mandatory. There are six levels of ratings from zero, meaning urgent improvement is necessary, to 5, which means very good compliance. Scotland has its own system, the Food Hygiene Information Scheme, that has three ratings: Pass, Improvement Required and Exempt Premises.

Delivery is popular among the 18-to-34 age group with 59 percent using this channel, but this dips to 32 percent in the 35-to-54 age band and drops to just 13 percent for the over 55s, an age group in which people might feel more vulnerable when they leave home.

Dominic Allport, insights director for foodservice at The NPD Group, said the data shows consumers were already acutely aware of cleanliness in eating out before COVID-19.

“As the industry moves toward reopening, operators will need to make this a top priority in order to encourage people back into their operations. The majority of people in our survey plan to return to restaurants, bars and cafes within a month of lockdown ending, but in order to do so, they’ll need to trust operators to offer safe environments from the get-go,” he said.

“Understandably, there will still be some people who are reluctant to go out. Operators can build this into their channel strategy and encourage more people to try delivery, especially older age groups.”

Sector guidance
The first COVID-19 British Foodservice Sentiment Study, carried out on March 20, found more than half of all respondents said they would return to eating out once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and British foodservice outlets are permitted to open. A quarter said they will eat out more often than before.

People in the Netherlands are also paying more attention to hygiene in the kitchen, according to a survey by the Netherlands Nutrition Center (Voedingscentrum). Experts hope the changes will continue after the crisis as better hygiene could mean fewer foodborne infections.

The Food Standards Agency has produced guidance for restaurants and takeaways, food manufacturers, and the farming and agriculture sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidance for consumers on coronavirus (COVID-19) and food can be found here.

The Chartered Institute for Environmental Health (CIEH) has also published guidance on food delivery and takeaway during COVID-19.

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