Coronavirus: consumers remain split on social distancing

Surveys show support for a one-metre social distance but a sizeable share of the public remains concerned


THE hospitality industry and its suppliers may need to “work hard” to reassure customers that a one-metre social distance is safe, according to recent surveys.

Two separate consumer surveys – from Hallgarten & Novum Wines and Berkmann Wine Cellars, respectively – have revealed that the general public remains split on the issue of social distancing.

While a survey of 2000 consumers carried out on behalf of Berkmann found that 51.4% were in favour of reducing the required social distance in venues from two metres to one metre, a larger poll of 36,000 consumers by Hallgarten & Novum concluded that social distancing remains the single biggest concern consumers have about returning to licensed premises.

When the Hallgarten & Novum researchers asked what social distance customers would feel most comfortable with in a hospitality venue, 42% said two metres, with 25% answering 1.5 metres and 17% saying one metre.

Over a quarter of respondents – 27% – cited social distancing as the ‘key factor’ in determining if and when they will return to hospitality venues, ahead of the rate of infection (23%) and the cleanliness of the venue (18%).

Hallgarten managing director, Andrew Bewes, said the company’s report showed that operators and suppliers will need “to work hard to convince [consumers] that one-metre distancing, in conjunction with other accepted measures, is safe and that they shouldn’t fear visiting venues if the social distancing guidance is reduced to this level”.

“It has been a long struggle for the industry but there is now light at the end of the tunnel, and providing we handle the demands of consumers well, we will all come out of this fighting,” said Bewes.

Berkmann chief executive, Rupert Berkmann, said his company’s survey offered “a glimmer of hope” for the industry.

In addition to 51.4% of respondents backing a social distance of one metre, 43% of respondents to the Berkmann survey said visiting pubs or restaurants was one of the first things they would do, post-lockdown, ahead of visiting the hairdresser (35%) or going on holiday (23%).

The vast majority of respondents were also comfortable with additional hygiene measures being introduced in venues, with 78% in favour of hand sanitiser being made available at the entrance, 60% happy to accept partitions between tables 59% supporting temperature checks for staff between each shift.

Berkmann said the survey showed that consumers “are now keen to start getting back to normality”. “They want to enjoy a meal or a drink in their local pub or restaurant, and feel comfortable that the time has now come for the guidance on social distancing to be relaxed,” said Berkmann.

“At the same time, they want to support their local hospitality venues and help ensure they will be there for many years to come.”