Introducing the post-pandemic consumer

By Berenice, Monday 15 February 2021

Katy Moses, the Managing Director of KAM Media explores the key trends that have emerged during the pandemic and asks the very important questions, what can we in hospitality expect from the post-pandemic consumer? Read on to find out more, there's also a whitepaper on the topic for the Arena network to download for free.

They say it takes 6 weeks to form a new habit. The unprecedented measures to contain this virus, the uncertainty, the potential financial instability for so many, and the months now spent in our homes, have undoubtedly altered many people’s habits and behaviours – some of which will stick for good. Snacking, for example, has increased. Sales of pyjamas and ‘lounge wear’ are through the roof!

“When all this is over”, an overused phrase if ever there was one, what can we expect from the post-pandemic consumer?

Initially we’re likely to see two extremes of consumer emerging from their homes. The first will be those who have felt cooped up in their house and will embrace the newfound freedom. They will dine out more, travel more, and be more social than ever. Many have saved a great deal by not leaving their house and have money to burn!

The other group will have become more connected to their homes: the home cooking, the family time, the slower pace. Many will be more cautious of time spent in the big wide world, they will stay much more local and hospitality will need to work hard to help them feel safe again and remind them why they used to visit and spend money on an out of home experience.

The majority of consumers are likely to settle back to longer term habits eventually, but there are some clear key trends which have emerged.

1. Tech-enhanced experience

A wider reach of people are doing a broader remit of activities online – learning, shopping, consuming, communicating… We’re watching live-theatre online, visiting the Louvre, playing online family quizzes, allowing our 5-year olds to video call friends and some are still even jumping around with Joe bloody Wicks! What does this mean for future behaviour? People have downloaded new apps and seen new ways to experience and utilise the online world. If you thought an online presence was important before, the importance has now exploded. 

What does this mean for hospitality venues? Well before this pandemic we carried out research which showed that 1-in-2 customers thought that pubs and bars were behind other leisure outlets and retail when it comes to their use of tech. A tech-enhanced customer experience will become the norm coming out of lockdowns.

2. Money is tighter (for many)

According to a recent KAM consumer poll, 25% of UK adults say “money will be tighter” for them in 2021. 35% of UK adults say they will be thinking more carefully about how they spend their money. 35% say they are already spending more carefully on food and drink to eat at home.

The 2021 consumer is MUCH more likely to be spending (often sub-consciously) by weighing up the cost versus benefits. Operators and suppliers to the industry will need to focus on providing fantastic value (not necessarily low prices) to get people coming through the doors.  We need to focus on re-assurance, building trust and also ‘temptation' to get people out of their homes again. Don't rely on price discounts, it'll always be cheaper to drink at home, it needs to be experience-led. Offering an outstanding experience, with fantastic food and drinks is what hospitality does best.

3. Health and wellness magnified

Consumers were already becoming more health conscious. The current crisis has accelerated this; ‘fear for my health’ was the number one reason people didn’t return to hospitality venues when they re-opened last year. Whether we end up with a nation of OCD hand washers or just a significant number of consumers who are more health conscious, more aware of their mental health, more aware of the need to slow down, de-stress and spend time with the family – we expect the health and wellness trend to further spike. Hospitality will need to proactively help customers feel safe, with regards to both food, drink and their environment. There is a key role to play within mental health; hospitality venues have always been a place where people can connect, de-stress, have fun! As an industry we need to continue to make the customer experience our number one priority.

4. Hospitality at home 

Delivery from pubs and restaurants is fast moving into its next phase. Only 7% of UK consumers were using delivery apps on a weekly basis before this crisis – that figure was around 24% after the first lockdown. Food delivery, ‘cook at home’ meal kits and even ‘mix at home’ cocktails are now providing hospitality with a much-needed source of income. Consumers have been forgiving of the kinks in new delivery services during initial lockdowns but operators now need to get professional. Competition is already fierce and not all will survive.

The next phase of delivery will move from a purely functional transaction to experiential. Operators need to think beyond the food they offer and consider the total experience; consider a delivery as a gift arriving on your customer’s doorstep. The best operators are not only providing quality food to eat at home but offer the entire experience including branded packaging, additional seasoning and sides (giving customers the options to personalise), drink pairings and even tableware and playlists!

5. 2019 buzzwords in a 2021 landscape

Remember sustainability? Plant-based? Low and no? Once the industry moves out of survival mode, many of these 2019 buzzwords will be very much back on the agenda.

For example, there's no doubt that some moves forward in the fight for sustainability within hospitality have been stalled. Plastic takeaway boxes may have been ok for panic buying in lockdown, they’re not going to be acceptable longer term. Going forward into 2021, we expect sustainability to come back to the forefront of consumer minds, and operators will find that alongside opening hours, Covid-safe measures and food and drink menus, how sustainable your business is will once again grow in importance.

Be open to (& ready for) change.

Events like this happen once in a lifetime (we hope!) It is unlikely that you will ever get this kind of opportunity again to test your weaknesses, experiment with your business and potentially take some risks. 

Whatever happens over the next few months, it will probably look very different again in 6 to 12 to 18 months. Staying close to what your customers want, need and feel is going to be even more instrumental than ever in helping you prepare for the future and navigate these challenging times.

If you’d like more information on the above ‘post-Corona consumer’ trends, then the Arena network can download our free whitepaper ( or email if you think your team would benefit from a presentation to help you prepare for the post-pandemic consumer.

Stay safe.  

Katy Moses, MD, KAM