New Research from Coca-Cola Reveals What Restaurants Need to Survive COVID-19

As the foodservice industry experiences unprecedented disruption in the face of COVID-19, The Coca-Cola Company has conducted a survey to understand what must be done to support restaurants and the communities they serve. The company’s new study, “Restaurant Reopening: Challenges, Needs and the Keys to Getting it Right,” offers insight into how the pandemic has impacted restaurants, how operators have adapted and what will bring diners back through their doors.

“Our study found that only 45% of restaurateurs are very confident they will stay in business for the next 12 months, and they need financial relief and clear, consistent standards to successfully reopen,” said Kathleen Ciaramello, President, Foodservice & On-Premise at The Coca-Cola Company. “This research proves the need for increased support for restaurants, and we’re asking industry leaders, partners, legislators and consumers to join us in coming to their aid.”

Coca-Cola COVID-19 Restaurant Research Infographic

COVID-19 Impact on Restaurants

Though many restaurants have begun to reopen, restrictions limiting seating coupled with consumers’ reluctance to return to in-restaurant dining means many restaurants are months away from operating at a profit. On top of that, 59% of restaurant owners say they are concerned a second wave of infections will force another shutdown.

To address health and safety issues related to COVID-19, restaurant owners say that on average they plan to invest an estimated $7,400 in making updates to their businesses, with one quarter of them also sharing it will likely take longer than a year to recoup these costs, if they are able to recover them at all. The data shows the need for increased support at the local, state and federal levels, with owners communicating the need for financial relief and clear, consistent standards to successfully reopen. Negative impacts to the industry and the communities they serve will most likely be severe without additional stimulus, as 92% of owners say they would significantly or somewhat benefit from specialized state and federal funds earmarked for restaurant recovery.

Innovating During COVID-19

In order to remain competitive during the COVID shutdown, 95% of restaurant owners innovated and added a new service they didn’t previously offer, and more than half of the restaurants adapted their operations to accommodate new takeout or delivery services. Diners responded positively, and adoption and demand for these new innovations suggests there is opportunity for a longer-term strategy for restaurants on the pathway toward profitability. For example, the insights show that grocery sales are the biggest opportunity for restaurants to continue to innovate, with 72% of consumers sharing that they are likely to buy groceries from a restaurant but just 29% of restaurants are offering the service.

Rebuilding Consumer Confidence

While consumers are eager to return to restaurants, their health and safety concerns continue to hold them back, as 80% say they are either very or somewhat concerned about dining in a restaurant. However, half of consumers say they will be ready for takeout dining within one to two weeks of a restaurant’s reopening, suggesting that a continued focus on takeout and delivery will help drive sales as diners wait to dine in. As with restaurant owners, consumers share that universally recognized standards and a rating system that all restaurants can follow would be helpful to reassure them that it is safe to return. Ultimately, a restaurant’s demonstration of safe practices is most important to patrons, including providing hand sanitization stations, limiting the number of diners in the establishment, requiring employees to wear masks and increasing the visibility of cleaning efforts.

Restaurant Tools and Resources

The Coca-Cola Company offers actionable insights like those found in the study as part of its commitment to be a leading partner within the restaurant industry. The company has come alongside restaurants in a variety of meaningful ways in response to the pandemic, including financial support, free tools and resources, innovative tech solutions and more. In April, Coca-Cola launched, a site that is regularly updated with COVID-19 safety guidelines for restaurants, tips for optimizing takeout and drive-thru operations, information about third-party restaurant delivery services and more. Via Coca-Cola Marketplace, restaurant owners can access discounted apps and services that create a more contactless dining experience, such as CardFree’s Pay@Table and OneDine’s scan-to-order solution.

“The Coca-Cola Company is committed to helping restaurants weather the storm of COVID-19 and thrive on the other side,” said Ciaramello. “We will continue to seek out opportunities to provide innovative solutions and support as we work alongside restaurateurs to save one of the largest and most resilient industries in the country.”