Amid COVID-19, Black Adults Report Less Comfort Dining at Restaurants

Black adults appear less likely to eat at restaurants due to coronavirus concerns. To win these customers back, restaurants will need to maintain or increase their on-site safety measures while also showing their commitment to social responsibility, writes food & beverage analyst Emily Moquin
Unsplash / Morning Consult artwork by Monique Zarbaf
February 24, 2022 at 5:00 am UTC

Black History Month is focusing attention on Black-owned restaurants and diversity within the industry, but on the other side of the table, Black adults’ comfort with dining at restaurants trails that of the general population.

In the restaurant industry, Black History Month is a time to celebrate Black-owned businesses and highlight employee diversity, with major cities hosting Black Restaurant Weeks and several brands and media outlets promoting Black-owned restaurants.

It should be noted, however, that Black diners have been consistently less comfortable with going out to eat at restaurants throughout the pandemic. This gap exists for both indoor and outdoor dining: Black adults are currently at least 10 percentage points less likely than the general population to feel comfortable doing either.

The share of respondents who said they feel very or somewhat comfortable going to a restaurant or cafe right now
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Weekly surveys conducted among representative samples of roughly 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

From examining Morning Consult’s high-frequency consumer survey research on COVID-19, it is clear that the coronavirus is having more of an impact on Black adults’ dining decisions. Currently, Black adults are expressing higher levels of concern about the coronavirus: Roughly half (51 percent) say they are very concerned about COVID-19 compared with 37 percent of all adults.

Black adults are also more likely than the general population to take the precaution of wearing a mask. Seventy-one percent say they always wear a mask in public, and nearly 6 in 10 say the same about dining in restaurants specifically. The figures for the general population, meanwhile, are 53 percent and 44 percent, respectively. 

Cooking habits play a role in Black adults’ dining decisions as well. Black adults are 10 percentage points more likely than the general population to cite enjoyment as a major reason for cooking meals at home. Together with safety concerns about the coronavirus, this may be driving down the frequency with which Black adults dine at restaurants.

Respondents who say they do each of the following at least once a week:
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Weekly surveys conducted among representative samples of roughly 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Black adults also have higher expectations of businesses when it comes to social responsibility. More than half strongly agree that companies should “act in the best interests of the well-being of society” and “positively contribute to local communities” (58 percent and 53 percent, respectively), while just 45 percent and 44 percent of the general population say the same.

This survey research shows how restaurants are missing out on a key customer base whose comfort levels with in-person dining remain low. Prioritizing safety measures, allocating more resources for delivery and takeout options, and reinvesting in local communities may help build trust and loyalty among Black consumers.

Emily Moquin previously worked at Morning Consult as a lead food & beverage analyst.


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