The omicron variant of COVID-19 impacted the retail and restaurant industry during the critical holiday season, a time many were counting on to make up for losses.
But new data shows that as fast as the variant has swept through cities across the country, it can roll out just as quickly to get consumers and businesses back on track toward recovery.
LWM Associates, a Dallas-based business advisory firm, conducted back-to-back waves of research in January to monitor omicron’s impact.
“While it doesn’t appear to be the case at the moment, the long-term view shows how far we’ve come despite the surges. Based on our January 17 research, positive consumer sentiment is already receding after a decline in December, telling us that consumers are moving beyond Omicron,” the report said.
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In the survey, 1 in 4 Americans said they would return to pre-pandemic restoration frequencies in about a month.
This is a stark difference from earlier December data, which showed consumers were withdrawing restaurant visits. 54% of Americans then said that they dined out less or that they had stopped dining out altogether. The December figures are still a far cry from the March 2020 results, which showed that 80% of consumers refused to dine out.
The Texas Restaurant Association highlighted similar data in its own report, released this week at a press conference to urge Congress to secure more funding for a crucial program to help struggling restaurants.
“The omicron variant hit Texas during the most important season for restaurants – the holiday season,” said Emily Williams Knight, president and CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association. “Things were looking up last fall, but as we stand here today, I’m extremely worried.”
Restaurants have already faced cost increases due to supply chain disruptions, inflation and labor shortages.
As of January 17, the number of Americans dining out less had fallen to 49%, showing 10 million more people dining out this month compared to December.
Lisa Miller, Founder of LMN Associates, has been tracking consumer sentiment since March 2020 and has surveyed over 40,000 consumers in her monthly “Journey Back to Joy” surveys and reports.
In the January report, surveyed consumers also expressed concerns about dining experiences that led them to opt for takeout and curbside delivery, or even cook at home due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in their area.
“We still have several consumer issues that require immediate attention to expedite getting consumers off their couches and back to your restaurants. Consumers are still grappling with the need for joy versus the worry or fear of COVID,” she said in the latest report. “Ask yourself, how joyful is the experience you provide? Do you lead with joy and reassure yourself with security? Both still matter as much today as they did in the past.