Datassential showed awareness of coronavirus in the U.S. to effectively be 100 percent at this point, with close to 80 percent of people saying they were “very familiar” with the situation. This represents a further increase of 8 points in four days, and a 13-point bump in a little over a week.
Additionally, concern over the virus rose sharply, up 12 points in four days. As of March 18, 61 percent of consumers said they were “very concerned” about the risk and were “hugely worried about my own personal health and plan to do whatever I can.”
Very familiar with coronavirus
- Very familiar with coronavirus: 58 percent
- Somewhat familiar: 39 percent
- Not familiar: 3 percent
- Very familiar: 71 percent
- Somewhat familiar: 27 percent
- Not familiar: 2 percent
- Very familiar: 79 percent
- Somewhat familiar: 21 percent
- Not familiar: less than 1 percent
Very concerned with coronavirus
- Very concerned: 41 percent
- Somewhat concerned: 49 percent
- Not concerned: 10 percent
- Very concerned: 49 percent
- Somewhat concerned: 42 percent
- Not concerned: 8 percent
- Very concerned: 61 percent
- Somewhat concerned: 34 percent
- Not concerned: 5 percent
These numbers speak pretty plainly.
What’s the issue?
Datassential points out one of the more troubling problems with COVID-19. Sure, awareness is high. But what exactly are people scared of when it comes to restaurants?
Consumers have limited tools to determine which restaurants are safe and which environments put them at risk, the company said. They fear coronavirus because it’s invisible.
“Frequent, visible, and overt sanitation is highly recommended, but beyond this people want transparency to free them from the unknown,” Datassential said. “Restaurants should be overly explicit in describing their safety and sanitation policies, from how often surfaces are disinfected to the precautions taken in food handling.”
Amazingly, Datassential found in its study, cleanliness is winning over taste right now. Has that ever happened before? Of course there are extremes (terrible health rating dissuading guests), but overall, this is almost never the case.
Datassential said the below data was “remarkable”—the fact people care more today if a restaurant is clean than if it makes tasty food.
“Consider the marketing implications. Rather than the beautiful food visuals that restaurants have long relied upon to promote themselves, it may be more effective to lead with a message around sanitation and safety,” the company said.
Considerations when selecting a restaurant
- Clean and sanitary: 45 percent
- Great taste: 36 percent
- Nearby: 36 percent
- Value: 34 percent
- Speed: 23 percent
- Healthy: 22 percent
- Variety: 19 percent
- Supporting restaurants that need help: 18 percent
- Good service/staff: 14 percent
- Locally/independently owned: 13 percent
To Datassential’s reflection, this looks like an Alice in Wonderland version of why diners pick restaurants. Some of those bottom categories are typically near the top, like good service. Healthy is another one that’s lost steam following a time when it was only climbing.
The takeaway is that there is no business as usual, status-quo going on. Will this change the restaurant industry forever? That’s something we’re going to discover in time.