The rise of curbside
As expected, curbside pickup continues to experience higher usage today compared to early COVID-19. Restaurants are adopting the practice in greater numbers.
Sixty-two percent of Bluedot’s respondents said they have used curbside pickup at a restaurant the same amount as before or more often than before in the last month.
Forty percent said they’ve used curbside pickup at a restaurant more than usual. In April, the figure was just 27 percent.
Akin to drive thru, as more operators onboard the option, consumer expectations will climb. In this case, there’s been an increase in importance when it comes to staff wearing a mask and gloves at curbside, Bluedot said.
Me not needing to leave my car
- First study: 31 percent
- Current: 27 percent
You can see here, once more, how consumers are loosening up their lockdown behaviors a bit.
Staff meeting me at curbside with mask and gloves
- First study: 18 percent
- Current: 26 percent
It seems the honeymoon period is over. Now that curbside is a relatively common channel, guests aren’t accepting the novelty of it. They’re judging one experience versus another. That’s true from a competitive angle as well as a repeat visit one.
Minimal or zero contact and interaction with staff
- First study: 30 percent
- Current: 22 percent
The same thread as before: The more time passes, the more guests trust restaurant workers. There’s no question some users will have the reverse experience. But if a brand delivers, and the guest is no worse because of it, fears will ease on some level. And then it comes down to the experience and meeting needs beyond just safety measures.
There is even less patience for carryout and in-store pickup than drive thru. Customers don’t want to wait in line with other customers. As much trust is being credited to employees of restaurants, the same isn’t true of other patrons. A vast majority of people list other guests as their No. 1 concern with dining out in a COVID world, not the restaurant itself.
Bluedot reported that 67 percent of guests view waiting six minutes or more as too long and frustrating for in-store pickup.
Sixty-five percent of people have picked up in-store at a restaurant the same number or more often than before in the last month, the company added. That’s a 10 percent increase from the start of April.
Three out of four respondents, or 72 percent, said they experience fear and/or anxiety over walking into a store/restaurant. That’s down from 80 percent in April.
Clearly, guests are increasingly willing to walk in and grab their food. Yet a restaurant might lose that same customer if they enter a crowded lobby and find it difficult to maintain their distance. You could say it defeats the contactless purpose. Consumers didn’t really like waiting for pickup before. Now, doing so taps into a host of other issues, from personal safety to guilt over leaving the house and making a seemingly bold choice. “I had to wait in line with 20 other people,” is a much different story to relay than, “I walked in, grabbed the food, spoke to nobody, touched nothing, and left.”
Chipotle, Cava, and hordes of other chains have rolled pickup shelves to units to streamline the process.
Apps on the rise
Bluedot discovered a significant increase in mobile app usage to purchase food and essentials. The company said 64 percent of respondents have downloaded at least one or more new apps to buy food from restaurants, grocers, and other essential stories. It’s up close to 15 percent from April.
All of this is connected. Apps to order food for contactless carryout. Apps to get drive-thru orders up and paid before you head over. It’s customer service, served digitally.
Same amount or more often than before
- First study: 85 percent
- Current: 88 percent
More often or much more often than before
- First study: 42 percent
- Current: 50 percent
Same amount as before
- First study: 39 percent
- Current: 39 percent
The gains, Bluedot said, are coming from those who previously used apps less often and are now using them much more often—an unlock to get food the way people want today.
Sixty-four percent of people said they prefer notifying restaurants of arrival via the app or texting. Of which it’s an even split between automated check-ins via the app or texting the restaurant directly.
Forty-nine percent said they’ve downloaded two or more apps—up just slightly from 45 percent in the last study.
The safety question
In Bluedot’s study, employees not wearing masks was, by far, the No. 1 reason respondents said they would not return to a restaurant. Sixty-two percent ranked wearing masks as the most important safety measure (there were 28 to choose from). Nearly 40 percent of people also said they feel more safe in the drive thru compared to delivery, third-party delivery, and carryout. Curbside pickup was second.
- Overall: 38 percent
- Women: 39 percent
- Men: 37 percent
- Overall: 21 percent
- Women: 23 percent
- Men: 19 percent
- Overall: 9 percent
- Women: 9 percent
- Menu: 9 percent
One thing to note, women perceive drive thru as three-and-half times safer than in-store pickup.
This spreads across regions, too (safety ranking):
- Midwest: 43 percent
- West: 41 percent
- South: 38 percent
- Northeast: 29 percent
- Midwest: 24 percent
- West: 20 percent
- South: 21 percent
- Northeast: 20 percent
- Midwest: 11 percent
- West: 7 percent
- South: 11 percent
- Northeast: 10 percent
When it comes to waiting, Bluedot summarized that the closer guests get to stepping into a physical store, the less waiting is expected and tolerated.
Percentage of consumers who feel frustrated waiting 10 minutes or more:
- Drive thru: 81 percent
- Curbside: 83 percent
- In-store: 86 percent
Willing to wait more than 10 minutes at a drive thru
- Women: 20 percent
- Men: 16 percent
Rank minimal wait times as one of the largest safety factors
- Women: 30 percent
- Menu: 39 percent