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This article was published 6/7/2020 (278 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
If you’re worried about grabbing a drink at your local pub or a slice of pie at a local coffee shop, you’re not the only one.
About 56 per cent of Canadians are "reluctant" to visit bars, cafés and restaurants in the next six months, suggests new research by Accenture Consulting which surveyed over 8,850 consumers across 20 countries since the onset of COVID-19.
Polls released Monday also indicate consumers are "uncomfortable" about visiting other public spaces, including sporting events and concerts (81 per cent); public transport (80 per cent); non-essential retailers (71 per cent) and shopping centres (71 per cent).
"It’s a trend we’ve seen since we began polling," said Kelly Askew, managing director of strategy at Accenture in Canada.
"People feel more at ease visiting their family and friends’ houses or going to the grocery store for essential trips."
Askew said Accenture’s data points towards an inevitable shift in consumer attitudes and behaviours, some of which he believes could become long-term and even permanent.
He said markets may need to tap into virtual modes of selling their services — such as online happy hours, home deliveries and chat-room features.
"It’s going to require exceptional levels of flexibility, resilience and resourcefulness for businesses to handle these changes."
Chuck Davidson, president and CEO of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, said this shift in consumer attitudes would have a massive impact on the way people interact with the food and hospitality industry.
"There’s ample opportunities for businesses to grow and pivot into something similar and yet different," he said. "People don’t just forget the way a restaurant or café personally interacted with them. Those aspects of customer service that people keep going back to will remain the same."
"But the bars, pubs and nightclubs as we know them — they won’t look the same."
And "in many ways," said Jonathan Alward of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, "those changes already began to happen before COVID-19."
"We’ve all been realizing what’s essential to us and what isn’t," he said. "I certainly know I feel more comfortable going to the grocery store than going out with friends the way I would before."
Those changes in what businesses people deem essential and what they consider non-essential have caused "a gradual shift to turn into a quicker change with regards to alcohol consumption," suggests finance professor Lisa Kramer at the University of Toronto.
"I think people turned to what the science and experts were saying and realized they were safer with things at home," said Kramer, who studies behavioural economics. "These new normal habits aren’t going to snap back immediately."
Bram Strain, president and CEO of the Business Council of Manitoba, believes a lot of that has to do with messaging from health authorities.
"I think it goes beyond being told whether it’s safe to go out and interact with businesses," he said. "People need to see visuals the way they would with a grocery store."
"For hospitality industries — especially places like bars and pubs — a lot of the health and safety protocol happens behind the scenes, so governments need to highlight how that’s happening," he added.
"People need to be assured confidence again in those services. They need to see that bars and restaurants aren’t just strangers providing services — they’re people who are also maintaining your safety."
Consumer confidence is at the core of why Winnipeg’s World Famous Palomino Club on Main Street closed its doors earlier than mandated, said manager and bartender Scott Townsend.
"It’s also why we’ve got sanitization stations everywhere, closed a lot of our dance floors and now have socially-distanced seating at our tables," he said.
Townsend said it’s been "strange and awkward" since they reopened a couple weeks ago.
"Here’s the thing I believe though," he said. "I know people will come back eventually. At the end of the day, they all just want a place to have fun."
Temur Durrani reports on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for this Free Press reporting position comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.