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Nearly half of consumers return to China’s bars

Since on-trade venues reopened across China following the coronavirus lockdown there has been an almost even split between consumers who have visited bars and those who have stayed away in four of the country’s most developed cities, according to CGA research.

Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, where the Covid-19 disease was first identified

CGA’s China On Premise Recovery Report conducted research in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Wuhan – China’s most developed bar and restaurant markets – between 7 and 11 May. CGA said the research showed a “picture of polarised consumer attitudes”.

Of the 48% of participants that have visited bars and restaurants in those four cities, the majority have done so multiple times.

“This even split in a market in which eating and drinking out was a previously fundamental part of daily life, highlights the apprehensive nature of consumers to go out again, as well as the precautions required to persuade consumers back into the out-of-home market,” said Phil Tate, CGA’s global CEO.

CGA said that consumers are more confident when it comes to visiting eating-out establishments. The venues that consumers feel most comfortable in visiting are mainstream and fine dining restaurants, followed by cafés and fast food outlets. In comparison, CGA noted that nightclubs and leisure venues ranked as the outlets that consumers felt the least confident about returning to.

The research also highlighted a significant group of consumers that deemed eating and drinking out as a risk and did not plan to revisit the sector any time soon. Two-thirds of those who have not gone out were also not planning to do so in the next month, with the risks of secondary and tertiary waves front of mind, CGA found.

CGA also noted that 60% of consumers said that some, or all, of the on-trade venues that they would typically visit had re-opened post-lockdown, but have had to close again.

The research showed how outlets and suppliers “may need to shift strategy to adapt to new conditions, including changes in drinking habits, the choice of where to visit and the impact on disposable income”.

CGA also looked at broader trends that may have a long-term impact on the on-trade, including the acceleration of health considerations, the impact of financial hardship on premiumisation and the renewed desire to support local venues.

Tate added: “With so many variables and unknown factors in markets yet to fully re-open, navigating a path to recovery and building a strategy is an undoubted challenge.

“However, understanding a consumer perspective from an advanced market provides a glimpse into the future and allows for insight into how target consumers will react and, therefore how strategies can be tweaked for success.”

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