Canada OPUS Nielsen CGA

OPUS survey reveals how Canadian consumers
are responding to COVID-19


As part of the Canadian On Premise User Survey (OPUS), CGA Nielsen surveyed 5,000 Canadian On Premise visitors to gain insights on consumer behaviours during the impact of COVID-19, as well as explore their recovery habits.

Canada, akin to the majority of the globe, is undergoing a period of acute uncertainty. Neighboring the country with the highest number of COVID-19 cases and enacting safety precautions to protect the nation has had a dramatic effect on the population’s behaviour. Since the initial impact of COVID-19, CGA Nielsen have been supplying a wealth of critical data to the U.S. On Premise, aiding clients and the wider industry in a strategic, evidence-based recovery plan. CGA Nielsen has now expanded their consumer research capabilities (OPUS) into Canada to similarly provide the latest market context through in-depth consumer research.

Despite the dramatic, multifaceted impact on consumer behavior and thinking, the OPUS survey revealed that visitors continued to have a positive outlook for recovery. In terms of drinking habits, 60% said they were drinking more than or the same amount of alcohol as pre COVID-19 while in lockdown. This is in spite of household income adjustments; 44% have experienced a decrease in household income, and 51% were unaffected. In terms of spending, 46% were spending the same as usual during lockdown – likely to be an effect of the lower costs of Off Premise purchases. This illustrates the importance of different strategies to support and encourage ALL consumer groups back, reminding them where the value lies in spending in the On Premise.

Income adjustments and changes to disposable income did not appear to deter consumers from their plans to return to the On Premise. 60% of consumers were willing to return immediately to the On Premise once outlets are permitted to reopen, with 60% planning to go out as frequently as pre-COVID-19 (8% plan to go out even more often). Furthermore, spending behaviour looks set to have a gradual recovery post COVID lockdowns: 70% of consumers expected to return to their pre-COVID spending habits as soon as outlets reopen, and 8% say they intended to spend more than usual. This reveals that consumers anticipated returning to normal habits to support the On Premise industry very quickly.

The greatest consumer concerns when immediately returning to bars and restaurants are large capacity venues (46%), cleanliness (38%) and taking public transport to and from bars/restaurants (38%). The numbers concerned with drinking from glassware is just 23% when venues first reopen, which suggests this is not a principal concern for consumers. If a venue implements visible hygiene practices, which it strictly follows and makes simple for consumers to follow – it appears that they are comfortable trusting venues and do not feel the need for single use utensils.

Quite naturally, the top occasions consumers missed relate to more personal and emotional outings, including catching up with friends (47%) and celebrations (36%), taking precedence over everyday or after work drinks. These occasions are the most likely to draw back visitation to the On Premise and encourage consumers to venture back out. There should be a focus on facilitating these occasions as potentially with social distancing. In doing so, consumers could be encouraged to return and are likely to have a reasonable spend for such occasions which include larger groups or ‘treat’ atmospheres.

Of the most missed venues, casual dining chains, pubs and fine dining restaurants top the list. These should prepare to have the highest visitation post-lockdown and distancing measures in place to cope with this. Rather promisingly, they also reveal there is a desire for both drink and food led venues from the consumer at this time. These venues are also key focus areas for beverage suppliers.

While drink offerings may be condensed in some bars/restaurants now they are reopened, it is important to understand the dynamic of what consumers have missed most during the lockdown so that suppliers can plan accordingly. Table wine, cocktails and craft beer were the beverages consumers missed drinking out the most – perhaps attributable to their serving styles and links to bartender recommendations / knowledge.

Take out / delivery has been a saving grace for some owners and operators as laws on alcohol delivery have loosened. Of the 26% of consumers who have partaken in any form of alcohol delivery, 50% ordered directly from bars / restaurants, revealing that direct engagement with On Premise locations is still occurring. Looking into the top venues that consumers ordered directly from, independent restaurants top the list at 33%, followed by casual dining restaurants at 25%. This suggests that consumers are more likely to reach out to a specific venue, and that unique venues with a recognisable owner / local are top of the mind when deciding where to order from. Encouragingly, this suggests that consumers felt a responsibility to protect and support local establishments during lockdown – a notion that is also reflected in the location data.

There has been an increased interest in local venues versus popular chains, and 15% said they would visit local bars / restaurants to support them more after they reopen. Just 7% said they planned to go to chains / popular chains more. This may be further contributed to by those reliant on public transport being more likely to remain within walking distance of their homes. Supporting local venues appears to be a strong take away behaviour of the average consumer during the COVID-19 pandemic – it has heightened their awareness of the independent venues vulnerability and reminded them of the value of an independent outlet alongside a cheaper or familiar chain. Local venues can capitalise by advertising what they are doing to protect consumers and staff and may find this a key opportunity to engage fresh consumers and gather a consumer base for returning visitation.

The OPUS data shows that Canadian consumers are prepared to return to the On Premise market, as well as spend, even with some caution surrounding COVID-19. Key recommendations from our research will effectively support and provide insight to bars and restaurants in doing this.

To learn more about Canada OPUS or to speak to a member of the team, simply get in touch below. 

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