UK public rally behind coffee shops after national lockdown

After visiting family and friends, going to a café or coffee shop was the most popular outing made since the UK’s national lockdown was eased on 4 July 2020, Allegra World Coffee Portal’s nationally representative survey of over 3,000 UK consumers has revealed.

55% of respondents said they had visited a café or coffee shop since the national lockdown was eased, second only to the 69% who visited family and friends. UK cafés proved even more popular than pubs, bars and restaurants, which attracted 28% of respondents.

Of those who ventured to a café or coffee shop since lockdown restrictions were eased, 43% purchased take-away only, 22% opted exclusively to sit-in, and 35% did both. Highlighting the enduring allure of UK coffee shop culture, 22% of respondents made between five and nine visits, 21% called in twice and 17% made three visits.

World Coffee Portal has also observed strong café and coffee shop sales as a result of the UK government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ initiative and the temporary VAT cut on food and non-alcoholic beverages. 36% of UK consumers indicated the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme would encourage them to visit cafés and coffee shops more often, while 31% said the temporary VAT reduction would compel them to.

While these temporary schemes have been well received, Allegra reports that just 26% of the British public surveyed believe the UK government has done enough to protect hospitality businesses during the pandemic, with 42% critical of its response. 51% of the UK public also fear for the future of their local coffee shop because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the Eat Out to Help Out, VAT reduction and staff furlough schemes all set to end in within the next six months, the fate of many operators remains uncertain and Allegra says it believes longer-term government support is needed to ensure the future prosperity of the UK’s cafés and coffee shops.

Social distancing, hand sanitising and facemasks are key customer concerns

UK café operators have stepped up to the challenge of reimagining store spaces to ensure staff and customer safety – 47% of UK consumers surveyed by Allegra agree that they feel safe physically visiting coffee shops during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, with 34% indicating they feel unsafe visiting coffee shops, Allegra says that operators must ramp up their efforts to enact, maintain and promote in-store safety measures.

Maintaining social distancing is reportedly the most favoured way UK consumers surveyed are mitigating the risk of catching coronavirus (93%), a 2% rise on April 2020. 88% are reportedly opting for more regular hand washing, up 3%.

Using hand sanitiser (88%) and wearing a facemask (83%) showed the biggest increases in hygiene-focused behaviour since April 2020, rising 28% and 61% respectively.

There is also reportedly a clear consensus of support for mandatory facemask wearing in most indoor public spaces, with 82% agreeing with the policy – 54% strongly so. Most consumers (83%) would have preferred to have seen the policy enacted in the UK earlier.

Technology is still no substitute for the real café experience

Just 5% of Allegra’s survey respondents indicated they used a coffee shop click & collect service both before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, with 5% opting to use such a service since the pandemic was declared. 81% have yet to use a coffee shop click & collect.

Beverage delivery from coffee shops has also yet to gain significant adoption. Just 3% of those surveyed had used a coffee shop beverage delivery service before and during the pandemic, with only 3% opting to have coffee shop beverage delivery since the pandemic was declared. 90% have yet use such a service.

Nevertheless, Allegra reports that those under the age of 30 are most likely to have interacted with a café digitally, indicating the rise of a new generation primed for seamless digital transactions in UK cafés and coffee shops.

Commenting on the survey findings, Allegra Group CEO and founder, Jeffrey Young said: “Cafés and coffee shops should be heartened by the wave of public support they have received since national lockdown restrictions were eased in July 2020.

“Nevertheless, this study indicates there are difficult times ahead for many businesses, and the extension of government support is likely needed to ensure the medium-term viability of the UK hospitality industry.”

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