The majority of Britons plan to return to pre-lockdown levels of restaurant visits as soon as they can, ahead of looming new restrictions that could further cripple the ailing hospitality sector, a survey reveals.
Diners are also ready to turn their raised concern for the environment into action and ditch their favourite menu choices for sustainable dishes, according to research carried out by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).
About three-quarters said they were ready to pay for food otherwise destined for the bin, with a similar proportion keen to try British versions of exotic dishes using local ingredients.
Crucially, consumers plan to return to dining out as often as they did before lockdown, once guidelines allow, the national survey reveals. More than three-quarters (76%) said they would revert to their previous habits of dining out up to four times a month.
The SRA works with an estimated 11,000 UK restaurant and venue kitchens on eco-friendly policies such as reducing food waste and single-use plastics, and creating sustainable menus.
Its members hit hard by Covid-19 include Pizza Express – which announced recently it was to close 73 of its 355 UK outlets – and The Restaurant Group, which has slashed its business to 400 branches from 650, mainly affecting Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito.
The SRA survey revealed that almost three-quarters (73%) of consumers said they would be likely to order a dish featuring “wonky” or imperfect fruit and vegetables or ingredients past their best-by date, or to choose meat-free options.
The hospitality sector was hit hard when restaurants, bars and pubs were shuttered for several months. Despite many reopenings since the spring, industry trade bodies have warned of “catastrophic employment consequences” with venues subject to restricted capacity and a 10pm curfew.
In Scotland, a two-week shutdown of pubs, bars and restaurants across Glasgow and central Scotland has come into force, with further local restrictions looming in England.
Andrew Stephen, chief executive of the SRA, urged consumers to prioritise sustainable choices in order to tackle the twin crises facing restaurants and the planet.
“The message is simple,” he said. “Every single one of us can make a difference; if we truly want to eat out to help out the crisis-stricken restaurant sector and planet, we must make good on our intentions by choosing the places that are sourcing and serving fantastic food that protects the environment as well as adhering to government guidelines.”
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