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A perfect storm is brewing - Joy vs. Fear

With surging Covid cases, there is unprecedented and dynamic tension between joy and fear. We are teetering on the brink as we try to find the delicate equilibrium between returning to normal activities and safety concerns over the new variants.

As business owners and brand stewards, we have the unique opportunity to be a student of the past and not to be caught off guard for what is unfortunately another surge in Covid-19 cases.

Trust in the data - Attitudes lead behavior

Our attitudinal data over the past year has been forward looking, meaning that as the positive sentiment to return to normal activities grew, we saw that change in behaviors closely followed. Restaurant, retail and many other business vertical recoveries mirrored closely to our data’s trajectory

With surging Covid cases, there is unprecedented and dynamic tension between joy and fear

During July, joy and excitement were at an all-time high with 68% of Americans venturing out and returning to normal activities, at least putting their toes in the water – literally and figuratively. It's important to note that the "Taking It Slow" group now represents 4 in10 Americans. Consumers in this group are the most malleable and can easily migrate back to the more anxious groups, as we've seen time and time again.

  • Out the Door First 24% (+1pt vs. June)

  • Taking it Slow 43% (+4pt vs. June)

  • Wait & See 9% (-2pt vs. June)

  • Anxious 10% (-2pt vs. June)

  • Very Anxious 13% (-1pt vs. June)

Surging cases in Covid equals surging concern, again.

51% of Americans are Very/Extremely Concerned about the Delta variant. Not surprising, the anxiety and concern varies dramatically by segment.

  • Out the Door First 25%

  • Taking it Slow 48%

  • Wait & See 60%

  • Anxious 79%

  • Very Anxious 83%

What’s troubling from a business perspective is the potential impact for the still volatile economic recovery. 59% state that they are already somewhat or significantly reducing activities. This too varies dramatically by segment.

Be a student of the past by not being caught off guard by another surge in Covid cases.

A perfect storm is brewing - Joy vs. Fear

Being a student of the past we can see that the restaurant recovery up until Q2 was mostly fueled by those ready to venture out. The line going down is like the pressure cooker releasing the steam. The Very Anxious were on the sidelines, relatively flat line until March.

  • First Out the Door group are pulling back dine-in restaurant visits due to lack of a joyful experience

    • Frustrations with poor experience/not being worth it are driving fewer visits - NOT safety concerns.

  • Very Anxious group finally ventured out in Q2 driving restaurant sales growth, yet are concerned about inconsistent and missing safety protocols.

    • It's important for operators to know that this group, plus the Wait & See and Anxious groups, will be much more watchful of safety protocols and are quick to pull back if they don't feel safe.

Why it urgently matters: We still have to lead with joy and reassure with safety.

Safety protocols are likely more important today vs. a year ago as the composition of consumers returning to restaurants has shifted. We predicted this a year ago.

  • Leading with Joy: First out the door consumers are much less likely to be concerned with safety vs. Very Anxious. They want a joyful experience, or they won't be back

  • Reassuring the Safety: Very Anxious are looking for a joyful experience too, yet safety comes first. Unfortunately with the staffing shortages, protocols are consistently inconsistent, and consumers are definitely noticing.

So now what?

#1: Match seating capacity to staffing capacity

  • You are probably saying, "I know that; it's what we're already doing." I'm going to challenge that, "Are you?" Our data suggests otherwise - it's not consistently happening.

#2: Bring back or re-emphasize visible and consistent safety protocols

  • Visible and on-going cleaning of surfaces

  • Determine your mask policy based on current guidelines - post it and be consistent

Survey data collected July 19 – July 25, 2021 by Lisa W. Miller & Associates and Prodege, LLC from a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults 18 years and older. Trend comparisons from the Journey Back to Joy Covid Tracking Study with 35 waves of data collection and 35,000 consumer surveys collected nationwide since March 2020.

Click here to learn more about this thought provoking initiative "Gearing Up For The Consumer Re-entry & The The Journey Back to Joy"

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