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When will people return to restaurants, museums, and location-based entertainment?

In my blog last week, I included graphs showing the fluctuation of peoples’ comfort level of returning to different out-of-home (OOH) activities from late April to the present. Comfort levels increased until mid-June, but then the trend turned in the opposite direction and has continued with comfort decreasing through last week. 

So, the important question is how soon will people again start visiting various OOH activities? To get insight into the answer to that question as well as see what changes occurred between the peaks in mid-June and now, I dug into poll data on how soon people said they would be comfortable visiting different OOH activities again. 

The graphs below show the percentages of adults who say they will be returning to the respective OOH activities within one month, the next 2 months, the next 3 months, within 4-6 months, and greater than 6 months.

Restaurants continue to be the OOH activity people are most comfortable returning to. However, those who say it will be at least 6 months before they visit increased from one-quarter of all adults in mid-June (24%) to more than one-third in late August (36%). All the other OOH activities also showed greater percentages of people now saying it will be longer than 6 months before they feel comfortable returning.

After restaurants, people were most comfortable attending a party, social event, or a museum. However, slightly more than half (52%) say it will be at least 6 months before they are comfortable attending. Consistent with all the other polling data I’ve analyzed, amusement parks and seated live events show the least comfort with at least 6 in 10 adults saying it will be more than 6 months before they return.

The decline that started in mid-June in both comfort and the lengthening of how soon people will return corresponded with the surge in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. This indicates that there is a correlation between infection rates and comfort. If infection rates start declining, the comfort levels and how soon people will return to OOH activities should improve. 

Keep in mind that all the polling data is for the entire U.S. Some areas of the country have high infection rates, while others have low ones. So, comfort levels in different areas will vary. Also, the demographics and political affiliation of people affect their comfort levels. Younger adults and Republicans show much higher levels of current comfort as well as indications they will return to OOH activities much sooner than other segments of the population. 

I think the bottom line is that we won’t be getting back close to 2019 levels of visitation and attendance at OOH dining, social, cultural and entertainment activities any time soon, most likely not until there is a medical breakthrough, either an effective cure for Covid-19 or an effective vaccine with a wide vaccination rate. So, we’re probably looking the soonest at late 2021.

About Randy White

Randy White is CEO and co-founder of the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group. The 31-year-old company, with offices in Kansas City, Missouri, has worked for over 600 clients in 37 countries throughout the world. Projects the company has designed and produced have won seventeen 1st place awards. Randy is considered to be one of the world's foremost authorities on feasibility, brand development, design and production of leisure experience destinations including entertainment, eatertainment, edutainment, agritainment/agritourism, play and leisure facilities.

Randy was featured on the Food Network's Unwrapped television show as an eatertainment expert, quoted as an entertainment/edutainment center expert in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times and Time magazine and received recognition for family-friendly designs by Pizza Today magazine. One of the company's projects was featured as an example of an edutainment project in the book The Experience Economy. Numerous national newspapers have interviewed him as an expert on shopping center and mall entertainment and retail-tainment.

Randy is a graduate of New York University. Prior to repositioning the company in 1989 to work exclusively in the leisure and learning industry, White Hutchinson was active in the retail/commercial real estate industry as a real estate consultancy specializing in workouts/turnarounds of commercial projects. In the late 1960s to early 1980s, Randy managed a diversified real estate development company that developed, owned and managed over 2.0 million square feet of shopping centers and mixed-use projects and 2,000 acres of residential subdivisions. Randy has held the designations of CSM (Certified Shopping Center Manager) and Certified Retail Property Executive (CRX) from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

He has authored over 150 articles that have been published in over 40 leading entertainment/leisure and early childhood education industry magazines and journals and has been a featured speaker and keynoter at over 40 different conventions and trade groups.

Randy is the editor of his company's Leisure eNewsletter, has a blog and posts on Twitter and Linkedin.

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