When Will Americans be Ready to Dine-In Again?

    The day is fast approaching for quick-service restaurants.

    McDonald's crispy chicken sandwiches.

    McDonald's

    Many Americans are ready and willing to take a seat in a fast-food restaurant.

    According to a new YouGov survey of more than 1,200 Americans, a quarter (25 percent) are willing to dine in at a fast food restaurant in the next 30 days, while another 17 percent are willing to head inside their favorite fast-food restaurant in the next three months.

    YouGov

    Millennials (16 percent) are less likely than Gen Xers (29 percent) or Baby Boomers (29 percent) to say they’re ready for a sit-down meal in the next 30 days.

    YouGov also asked Americans what measures would help them feel more comfortable dining-in at a fast-food restaurant and the majority (53 percent) said sanitization of tables and chairs in-between customers would help very much. Other measures that would put patrons at ease include free hand sanitizer or hand-washing station for customers before entering the store, which 47 percent said would help very much, as well as limited seating to allow at least 6 feet between tables (39 percent) and removing shared condiment stations (39 percent).

    YouGov

    Restaurants may also want to consider face mask polices, as roughly a third (35 percent) say requiring all customers and staff to wear face masks when not eating would very much help them feel more comfortable dining-in.

    Other measures which YouGov put forward to Americans included plexiglass/barrier between customers and staff, which a third (33 percent) said would be very helpful, removing touch-screen order kiosks (30 percent) and temperature checks to detect fevers before people enter the restaurant (29 percent).

    McDonald’s laid out its plan for reopening its dining rooms which includes frequent cleaning, limiting seating and increased signage to promote physical distancing, according to news reports earlier in May.

    Public restrooms remain a tricky frontier for the American consumer during COVID-19 and YouGov’s survey suggests half (50 percent) are not very or not at all comfortable using the restroom at a fast-food restaurant.

    YouGov

    It also appears curbside pickup may not be going anywhere once restrictions are lifted, as 39 percent of Americans said they are somewhat or very likely to use the service at a fast-food restaurant even after any pandemic-related restrictions are lifted. Roughly the same number (37 percent) said so of using the service for non-fast-food restaurants.

    When picking a fast-food restaurant to order from (not necessarily to dine-in), nearly half (46 percent) of Americans say a drive-thru is one of the most important services to look for. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) also chose touchless/contactless service, 21 percent chose delivery and 20 percent chose vehicle window service.

    In all, it appears many are keen to take seat at their favorite restaurant, but the practices put in place as a result of COVID-19 and related social distancing rules may reach far into the future.

    Methodology: Total sample size was 1,226 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between May 22 and 26, 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults.

    Ted Marzilli is CEO of YouGov Direct, and previously led YouGov's Data Product's division. Prior to joining YouGov, Marzilli was Senior Vice President, Corporate Development at The Nielsen Company where he developed global strategy and launched innovative services related to loyalty marketing, in-store media and the financial services industry.