Consumer Behavior Assignment: Impact Of COVID-19 On Food Consumption In Hospitality Industry
Prepare a research report on consumer behavior assignment addressing the influence of COVID-19 on consumer food consumption behavior in the hospitality industry in UK.
Introduction: Covid-19 has engulfed the world in few months and threatened the health and lives of millions of people worldwide. The spread of covid-19 has also extended travel restrictions in many countries and had significant impact on global tourism and hospitality industry.
Aim: The aim of the research is to explore the influence of covid-19 on the food consumption behavior of the consumer in the hospitality sector of UK with special consideration of Moorhen, Harlow as case study.
Literature Review: Rise in strict lockdown measures taken by the government has bought changes in the daily lives of the consumers and in turn impacted their behavior. covid-19 pandemic has bought changes in the usual consumer behavior such as rise in hygiene need, hoarding necessary foods and toilet needs and others. The covid-19 effect on the footfall of hospitality industry in UK 2020 was negative as 65% of the entities in the lodging and food service sector has skilled a decrease in their footfall. The reduction in seated dinners in UK restaurants on March 16, 2020 was 52% and was 82% on March 17, 2020. The food delivery usage during covid-19 in UK increased by 60% among the consumers ages 18-24 years, 30% among consumers of 35-54 years and only 10% among consumers aged 55 and above.
Methods: The present research made use of case study qualitative research design to reach the research outcome. As a part of the qualitative research design the researcher made use of structure and semi-structured interview method to collect the data from the customers and professionals of Moorhen, Harlow, a small restaurant in UK.
Findings: the findings show that the covid-19 pandemic has effected the eating behavior of the consumers in many ways towards the hospitality firms. The consumers have become more aware of their hygiene and safety concerns with the rising pandemic and are willing to eat healthy and hygienic food.
Conclusion: Therefore, it can be stated that the overall findings of the research have successfully answered the research aim that covid-19 had a huge impact on the food consumption behavior of the consumers in the hospitality industry.
Limitations: The research ran with certain limitations such as lack of extensive journals, time and sample size.
Chapter I: Introduction
Covid-19 has engulfed the world in few months and threatened the health and lives of millions of people worldwide. The spread of covid-19 has also extended travel restrictions in many countries and had significant impact on global tourism and hospitality industry (Baum and Hai 2020). The hospitality sector is highly vulnerable to the threats posed by the rise of the virus and other epidemics and disasters. Such catastrophes create different consequences to the hoteliers and increases their need to tackle challenges caused by the crisis. In 2020, 65% of the hospitality businesses in UK has experienced a fall in their footfall due to the covid-19 pandemic (Statista 2021). Moreover, the report by Baum and Hai (2020) stated that the hospitality industry is unlikely to recover in the next four years. The decrease in footfall in the hospitality sector has been due to the change in the consumer consumption behavior due to rise in need for safety. The present research studies the effect of covid-19 on food eating behavior of the consumers in hospitality sector of UK by focusing on the case of Moorhen, Harlow.
The rationale behind conducting the study is the rising issue faced by hospitality companies from the consumers due to their changing consumption habits and concerns. Covid-19 has created huge sense of loneliness and frustration among the potential consumers and changing their living habits (Song et al. 2021). The research focuses on Moorhen, Harlow case to learn the changes in consumer food consumption behavior in the hospitality sector. This is a small restaurant in UK that has lost huge customers due to the pandemic and failed to generate high profit. This is because the consumers are very much concerned about their health and economic risk they are exposed to due to the pandemic. Thus, the rationale behind conducting this research is to understand the changes in food consumption habit of consumers towards hospitality sector in UK due to the pandemic. This is because consumers have become highly conscious about consuming outside and the safety protocols of restaurants. Thus, the research will not only help Moorhen, Harlow to identify the impact of the pandemic on consumer’s food consumption habits and bring changes accordingly in their operations, however, the research outcome will also help other small and big restaurants in UK to learn the changes in consumers’ food consumption habit and the changes they should bring (Kaushal and Srivastava 2021). Moreover, findings have shown that more than 72% of the restaurants and pubs in UK have called for help with the fear of shutting down permanently due to lockdown (Statista 2021b). This is because they have become financially unviable due to the covid-19 effect. Guest in restaurants and hotels are unwilling to stay because of safety concerns and this has reduced sales. Thus, such growing issues faced by the restaurants in UK has made it important to conduct research that will help these firms to understand consumers’ concerns and work on those areas for increase customer footfall in near future.
During the pandemic it is seen that the hospitality sector has faced significant changes in the behavior of the consumers. This has made the hospitality firms such as hotels, restaurants and others to use efficient technology such as robotics and artificial intelligence to improve the experience of the customers and offer them a safe environment. Consumers are highly concerned about consuming nutritional and clean foods from small restaurants. They are even avoiding consuming food outside due to the fear of human contact and spread of virus. According to recent reports, about 20 to 30% of the restaurant chains in UK are likely to get shut down due to sanitation, hygiene and social distancing concern and experiences a 56.7% drop in sales (Statista 2021e). Thus, the research will allow the restaurants to learn the change in food consumption behavior of consumers from restaurants like Moorhen, Harlow and make necessary changes to improve their profit and sales.
The aim of the research is to explore the influence of covid-19 on the food consumption behavior of the consumer in the hospitality sector of UK with special consideration of Moorhen, Harlow as case study. It will illustrate the way coronavirus has transformed the behavior of the consumers towards outside food consumption. This is because the consumers have become highly concerned about the sanitization, safety protocols and eating habits with the spread of covid-19. The consumers are seen to avoid junk food and shifting their consumption habit to clean and fresh vegetables. Overall, the research has the aim to investigate into the changes in food consumption habit that covid-19 has bought to their customers.
The objectives of the study help in achieving the aim of the project through various other aims. The objective of the research helps in addressing the actual purpose of the investigation by generating different types of knowledge. The objectives of present research are:
- To examine the effect of covid-19 on consumer behavior.
- To identify major implication of covid-19 in the hospitality industry of UK.
- To investigate into the way covid-19 has produced a shift in the food consumption habit of customers of hospitality sector in UK.
- To examine the affect of changes in customers’ food habit on the financial performance of the hospitality industry.
The research will meet its aim by answering certain research questions as follows:
- How covid-19 has bought a change in the buying behavior of the consumer in the hospitality industry of UK?
- How covid-19 has caused a shift in the food consumption habit of customers of Moorhen, Harlow?
To complete the research effectively and with accurate information, the researcher made use of different methods to collect data, analyzing data and display of findings. The present research made use of case study qualitative research design to reach the research outcome. As a part of the qualitative research design the researcher made use of structure interview method where it will collect data from the managers of five different small restaurants in UK such as Moorhen, Harlow. Further, a semi-structured interview was used to collect data from customers coming in Moorhen. Harlow. This will help in learning the changes in attitude of customers towards food preferences and the way they are planning to achieve better customer satisfaction. Simple random and systematic sampling method is chosen to select the sample of managers and customer in Moorhen, Harlow as a case study firm. A deductive approach is also used in the research to validate the current findings with past claims of other researcher on similar area. The research will consider all ethics and limitations of using humans such as the professionals of small restaurants in the research.
The research is divided into five different chapters and each chapter will help in reaching the accurate outcome of the research.
Chapter 1- Introduction
The first chapter introduces the objectives and aim of the research to the reader and help capture the interest of the readers. It gives an overview of the research topic and details the rationale behind the research and the way it makes contribution to the targeted audience. This chapter also outlines the forthcoming chapter overview and explain the importance of the topic.
Chapter 2- Literature Review
The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the past works of literature on the study area. This research will review recent journals that has researched on the effect of covid-19 on customer behavior and the impact on hospitality sector.
Chapter 3- Research Methodology
The third chapter outlines the methods that the researcher used to collect data related to consumer behavior due to the pandemic. The section outlines the data collection method, data analysis method, research designs and ethical considerations in the research process. This is an integral section because based on the selection of methods the researcher has reached accurate outcome.
Chapter 4- Findings
The most crucial chapter is findings that states the overall outcome of the research and the answer to all research question. This section elaborates on the overall responses received from the interview and the final result that can be deduced from it. The findings section also states the extent to which the researcher has met the objective of the research.
Chapter 5- Conclusion
The last chapter summarizes the overall findings of the research and what the findings concludes from it. This section also composes final recommendation for future research and the limitations present in the present research process.
Limitations of the Study
The present research faces limitations to the study such as time limitation for conducting the interview with the managers of small restaurants in UK. Further, the researcher also tends to face ethics limitations from managing privacy of information and receiving consent of the managers to participate in the interview. Further, there are limitation of choosing adequate referencing for literature review section and collection of secondary data.
Chapter II: Literature Review
The literature reviews the ways in which covid-19 pandemic has bought a change in the overall behavior of the consumers in hospitality sector of UK. The literature reviews the changes in consumer behavior and the impact of covid-19 on Moorhen, Harlow as case study. The section reviews all the changes bought in the perception of the consumers and the business due to covid-19 effect. Covid-19 has bought major changes in the behavior of the consumers and the future of the hospitality industry. Moorhen, Harlow, a small restaurant in UK has been deeply impact by the infectious virus because of huge drop in their profit and sales. The major reason for reviewing the literature is to understand the change in behavior of consumers towards hospitality sector due to covid-19, as researched by other scholars. The section first reviews the concept or theory of consumer behavior and its role in business and then it moves to the application of the concept on hospitality sector of UK with Moorhen, Harlow as case study.
According to Hoyer et al. (2001), consumer is an integral element of any business organization and their behavior is of great important to the business. consumer behavior is referred to as a study of processes that an individual goes through when making a purchase decision that can satisfy their needs. The behavior of the consumer can take the form of choices that depends on a number of features such as earnings, demographics, social and cultural factors. There are also external factors that impacts the buying behavior of the consumers such as external environmental surroundings. Through analyzing consumer behavior, the businesses are able to understand the needs of the consumers and the expectation they keep from a product or service. Mansoor and Jalal (2011) has stated that consumer behavior is a study of how consumers selects, buy or use goods and services to satisfy their needs and desire. The behavior of the consumer shows the intention of the consumer towards different items and the changes in their expectation according to change in situation. The behavior of the consumer determines the pattern of purchase and consumption of products and services. Arora et al. (2020) describes that consumer behavior is a division that deals with various stages that a consumer goes through while buying products or services. The behavior of the consumer is of high importance to the business because according to their behavior the firms take different product or service development decisions and processes.
The Impact of Covid-19 on Consumer Behavior
Covid-19 as an external environmental factor has bought various changes in the behavior of the consumers over time due to rise in threats from virus, protocols of the government and the rising concern of safety. Arora et al. (2020) has stated that rise in strict lockdown measures taken by the government has bought changes in the daily lives of the consumers and in turn impacted their behavior. With the rise in virus the consumers have become more conscious in their purchase decisions and much focused on digital channels for purchasing their products. With the rising trends of maintaining physical distance, the consumers are becoming more determined to purchase from online medium and avoid moving out from their home. Baicu et al. (2020) has further pointed out that the covid-19 pandemic has bought changes in the usual consumer behavior such as rise in hygiene need, hoarding necessary foods and toilet needs and others. This is due to the looming threat of covid-19 and the possible risk of being affected by the virus. Such change in behavior has bought huge benefit in their health and living habits. The change in consumer behavior is seen in several sectors including grocery stores, convenient stores, restaurants, hotels and cafeterias. According to Laato et al. (2020), the change in behavior of the consumers during the pandemic is due to individual-level motivations and government-enforced policies. Such individual and government decisions during covid-19 made the consumers make careful decisions. Consumers have become much attentive and conscious when making purchase due to rising need of safety from the virus.
Likewise, Laato et al. (2020) has stated in the findings that with rising covid-19 cases it is seen that the consumers have developed stock up mentality and online ordering behavior. With the rising need of lockdown and keeping distance from public, consumers have started hoarding supplies or make their purchase online. This is because consumers are preferring to stay at home as much as possible and avoid going outside to public places such as restaurants, parks, pubs and others. Likewise, covid-19 has also caused a rise in the online transactions by the consumers and benefitted online businesses. However, Arora et al. (2020) argued that the shift to cooking at home behavior of consumers and away from sit-down restaurants due to covid-19 has caused negative impact on businesses. Similarly, the rise in hoarding behavior of the consumers has caused shortage at store and market in the time of need.
Taghikhah et al. (2021) tracked the changes in consumer sentiments across 45 countries due to the rise in covid-19 situation. It was found that the covid-19 pandemic has caused global humanitarian challenge with huge lives at risk. Further, it was seen that such challenges have shifted the value of the consumers towards fundamentals, flight to digital and omnichannel service, shock to loyalty, and rising for healthy and hygienic packaging and care. This shows that rise in covid-19 has caused negative impact on consumer behavior by making them more conscious and careful before making any purchase decision. Statista (2021c) has shown that about 60% of the consumers have changed their shopping and purchase behavior globally due to covid-19 impact. It was found that when consumers failed to find their preferred product then they change their shopping behavior such as purchasing from different channels and brands. With the rising pandemic about 71% in UK preferred to change their shopping behavior and method due to strict lockdown. However, it was seen that in regions where lockdown was less strict the change in consumer shopping behavior was only 33%.
Figure 1: Customers who have tried new shopping behavior
Source: Stevens et al. (2021)
Implication of Covid-19 in the Hospitality Industry of UK
Covid-19 has bought a transformation in the present and future condition of the hospitality industry. Many hospitality firms including small restaurants, hotels and others have been forced to shut down due to financial loss they were incurring. The hospitality operations of many countries have come to virtual shut down due to restrictions from government on movement of people and threat of being affected by virus. Aldaco et al. (2020) has pointed out that covid-19 has created negative implications on the hospitality sector by creating a condition in which the consumers are afraid of moving out of the house and visiting restaurants and hotels due to absence of social safety. Such negative implication of covid-19 on the hospitality industry has been due to closing of borders, curtailing of travel, closure of tourist facilities and rescinding of consumer protection rights in hospitality. Hassen et al. (2020) has further found that the spread of covid-19 has raised question on the survival of the hospitality sector. The question that is rising is related to safety of the consumers and the extent to which the hospitality firms are complying with the regulations introduced by the government during the pandemic. Consumers are becoming highly anxious about the safety and hygiene of the hotels and the restaurants. They are preferring firms that facilitate high level of hygiene and believe in thorough cleaning. Moreover, there are potential customers that are preferring to stay at home and protected from the virus and unwilling to visit outdoor places. This has raised huge challenges for the hospitality firms and increasing their chances of financial losses.
Byrd et al. (2021) has argued that the hospitality sector has faced limited negative impact from the rise of covis-19 because the digital switch in the sector was well under way even before the covid-19 started. Thus, hospitality firms like the restaurants have well started receiving online orders from customers even amid the pandemic. According to the finding in the article the restaurants have modified their service by adding online platforms for checking menu, leaving review, listing information and others. This is helping guests to search the hotel online and book the tables to avoid crowd. The customers are also getting option to get their food delivered online. Thus, the hospitality sector has been able to reduce the negative impact of the pandemic to a certain extent.
However, according to the reports of Statista (2021b), it was evident that the covid-19 effect on the footfall of hospitality industry in UK 2020 was negative as 65% of the productions in the accommodation and food service sector has experienced a decrease in their footfall. While giving focus on the improvement in footfall in this industry, the report found that only 10.6% of the businesses have experienced an increase in footfall. However, they have also found that about 10.6% of the hospitality business stayed the same and did not get impacted by the covid-19 pandemic.
Figure 2: Covid-19 impact on hospitality industry footfall in UK
Source: Statista (2021b)
Covid-19 and Shift in Food Consumption Behavior of Customers in Hospitality Industry
Customers have become highly conscious in their purchase behavior with the rise of pandemics, especially related to their food consumption behavior. The customers are not willing to go to dine-in restaurants due to the fear of being affected by the virus. According to the recent data by Hakim et al. (2021) it was found that 40% of the customers are ready to pay more for better safety precautions when visiting the hotel and restaurants. This shows that the customers majorly expect to hotels and restaurants to implement safety procedures and facilitate good hygiene. Similarly, according to the findings of Song et al. (2021), with almost three months of lockdown due to the spread of covid-19 cases the restaurants in UK were not allowed to re-open only if they follow strict hygiene conditions to prevent the second wave of the virus. The reduced in seated dinners in UK restaurants on March 16, 2020 was 52% and was 82% on March 17, 2020 (Statista 2021c). A few days later the restaurants in UK were forced to close with huge decline in their dine-in numbers. This was due to the fear of hygiene among the customers to eat outside.
Baum and Hai (2020) has further stated that covid-19 has shifted the preferences of the customers to consume more healthy food than consuming outside junk food. They focus on purchasing local ingredients that can be easily purchased to protect themselves from the virus. With rise in the spread of virus it was seen that consumers started taking vitamin D supplements and warm water to protect themselves and maintain personal hygiene. Moreover, from the findings it was also evident that preference of people to consume home made food increased than eating outside. This was to reduce the chances of going out for eating or purchasing food. Similarly, Craven et al. (2020) pointed out that consumers shifted their eating behavior towards consuming higher value foods such as fruits and vegetables that can help them provide high nutrients value and the strength to fight with the virus.
However, Brewer and Sebby (2021) argued that the restaurants have faced a huge increase in their food delivery sales with the rise in covid-19 virus because the households are changing their habits from meals at restaurants with meals at home. This shows that the consumers are still consuming restaurant food even during covid-19 pandemic with only difference is that they started ordering restaurant food at home. Likewise, in the report by Statista (2021d) it is seen that the food delivery usage during covid-19 in UK increased by 60% among the consumers ages 18-24 years, 30% among consumers of 35-54 years and only 10% among consumers aged 55 and above.
Figure 3: Food Delivery Frequency in Great Britain
Source: Statista (2021d)
The effect of Changes in Customers’ Food Habit on the Financial Performance of the Hospitality Industry
The rise in pandemic has made it challenging for hospitality industry to make any important changes in their business due to financial downturn and rise in cost. this is because customers have become highly conscious about their health due to the pandemic and are constantly looking for sanitization, privacy and credibility while visiting a restaurant (Stevens et al. 2021). This has increased the cost of the restaurants to maintain a higher safety and hygiene standards. According to the findings of Kaushal and Srivastava (2021), covid-19 has increased the chances of financial uncertainty on the part of the hospitality businesses. This is because businesses have adopted lower pricing strategy to attract customers and improved their customer services to offer customers with health food options and meet their safety needs. Similar findings are seen from the report of Statista (2021e) that during the covid-19 rise in UK there was a sharp decline in the sales of pub, bar and restaurant. Before the covid-19 warning, the restaurant clusters experienced the biggest fall in sales by 21% followed by decline in sales in bar and pub by 14% and 12% respectively. Such decline increased to a decline of 60% for bars, 56.4% for restaurants and 57% for pubs in March as soon as the lockdown in UK was announced. Such drop in sale and change in food habits of customers caused a huge financial loss to hospitality businesses.
Figure 4: Sales decline in UK pub and restaurant due to Covid-19
Source: Statista (2021e)
Summary and Gaps in Literature
From the findings of past literary scholars and statistical reports it was seen that the hospitality industry of UK has been high hit by the health eating behavior of the customers. This has created a longer period of financial uncertainty for the businesses with rising cost and reduction in customer numbers. However, findings of few literary sources also show that the restaurant and hospitality sector has not been negatively impacted by changes in consumer behavior because most of the consumers have started preferring online delivery for food consumption. The eating behavior of consumers have just shifted from dine out behavior to eating at home by ordering food online. From the past works of literature, it is evident that there is a contradictory outcome on the impact of covid-19 on the eating behavior of the consumer in the hospitality sector of UK. This has raised a gap in the topic where the past scholars have not stated or found the actual eating habit of the consumers in the restaurants and failed to stand that the impact of covid-19 has been totally negative or positive. There is evidence in sales and customer number in restaurants in UK, however, the actual change in food consumption behavior towards hospitality firms.
Chapter III: Methodology
Research methodology section of the study will help in collecting data to answer the research question (Snyder 2019). The section will first state the type of research design that the researcher will use to collect data and then move forward in explaining the approach and philosophy that the researcher uses to conduct the study. Methodology will also explain the type of method the researcher uses to collect data and analyze the collected data to reach the further outcome. The section will further outline the ethics that the researcher considers while including human participants in the research and collecting data in an ethical and honest manner.
Research design is a framework of research methods that is used by the researcher to collect and analyze the data to reach the final result. There are different kinds of research designs used by the researchers to investigate into the study such as exploratory, explanatory, case study, experimental and others (Snyder 2019). The researcher will make use of descriptive case study research method to indulge in in-depth descriptive research to collect, organize, interpret and present the data. A case study research method will help in examining the data closely within the specific context. A case study design will help in conduct an in-depth research into the way the eating habits of the customers have changed or shifted into cheaper alternatives over time (Ridder 2017). Within the case study design, the researcher collects a large amount of data from a case such as Moorhen Harlow in this paper, which is a small restaurant in UK. This helps in studying the impact of covid-19 on all the customers of hospitality sector in UK. However, a case study design may face certain limitations such as there can be unconscious bias on the end of the researcher, it takes longer time than needed. Moreover, as there are different sizes and types of hospitality firms there can be errors because this method requires small sample size.
Research approaches refers to the plan and the procedures that the researcher uses to collect and analyze the data for the study. There are two types of approaches used by the researchers such as inductive and deductive approaches. The researcher will make use both type of approach in this project wherein it will use inductive approach to implement case study research design and deductive approach to deduce the outcome of past researches and align it with inductive research (Ngozwana 2018). Inductive research approach is a systematic procedure that allow analyzing the qualitative data by collecting data directly from the source. Deductive approach refers to top-down reasoning that helps in reaching the right conclusion by aligning primary data with past researches. Both the approaches together help in accurately studying the impact of covid-19 on the eating habit of customers in hospitality sector of UK.
Research philosophy refers to logic and belief that the researcher uses to approach the study and the way in which data about a study area should be collected and analyzed. There are various kind of philosophy used by the researcher in the study such as epistemology, positivism, realism, interpretivism and others. The researcher focuses on the interpretivism philosophy that allows the researches to interpret elements in the study by integrating human interest in the study. Such type of philosophy is based on naturalistic approach of data collection such as interviews and observations. Such philosophy also allows the researcher to also include secondary data in the research. However, this philosophy runs with certain limitations such as impacted by personal viewpoints and there are high chances of bias.
Data Collection Method
For case study research design the researcher will focus on using interview techniques to collect data. Interview method is used to gather data from small group of subjects to answer a broad range of topic. For the purpose you can make use of structured and unstructured interviews to collect data. For learning the changes in eating habits of the customers the researcher made use of both structured and semi-structured interviews. The structured interview helped in collecting data from two managers of Moorhen Harlow restaurant (Roulston and Choi 2018). The semi-structured interview was collected from twenty customers of Moorhen Harlow in UK that visited the store in two days (Evans and Lewis 2018). These managers are the best participants to include in the interview and to collect the research because they have the best experience of the hospitality industry and have direct contact with the customers. Similarly, the customer will help learn their own perceptions towards eating in a restaurant during covid-19.
The research made use of simple random sampling to choose the sample for structured interview. This means that all floor managers of Moorhen Harlow restaurant had equal chance of being selected for the structured interview. Simple random sampling helps in increasing ease of use and accuracy of the research and help represent the population in a better way such as the hospitality firms in the present research (Etikan and Bala 2017). For interviewing the customers, the researcher made use of systematic sampling in which the customers coming in the restaurants only in those two days will have the probability of being chosen for the interview (Ryan 2018). Among all the customers that visited the restaurant in two days only twenty people responded to the interview questions to some extent.
Data Analysis Method
Data analysis is the integral and the final part of the research that involves interpreting the collected data and extracting insights that can answer the research questions effectively. There are two types of data analysis method such as qualitative and quantitative methods. The present research has made use of qualitative research to analyze the research reach the research findings in the most accurate way. The researcher makes use of thematic method of analysis to interpret the collected information based on certain important themes (Ngozwana 2018). The researcher closely examines the data based on certain common themes that can help interpret the overall impact of covid-19 on the eating habit of the consumers towards the hospitality firms. The themes are directly linked to the objectives of the research. This study will analyze the data based on three common themes:
Theme one- covid-19 and consumer behavior.
Theme two- covid-19 and food consumption habits in hospitality firms
Theme three- food consumption habits and financial performance of hospitality firms.
The researcher should focus on the privacy of the participants and conduct the research in an ethical manner. The researcher has considered various ethical concerns to collect the information from the participants in most ethical manner with all integrity and respect. The participants were allowed to participate in the interview in their own terms and considerations. Further, every participant was asked to fill a consent form before participating in the interview and were asked to answer the interview questions independently without being influenced by anyone (Roth and von Unger 2018). Further, the researcher maintained the policy of privacy, anonymity and confidentiality in protecting the responses given by the participants.
Chapter IV: Findings and Discussion
Looking at the empirical findings of the interview, three themes are found that helped in answering the questions effectively. Comparing the findings of these three themes, the overall impact of covid-19 on the eating habit of the consumers in hospitality sectors of UK were found.
Findings on Consumer Behavior During Covid-19
Consumer behavior was the most important aspect that the result of the interview helped in deriving. Starting from the structured interview from the managers of Moorhen Harlow restaurant it was found that they have experienced an extensive change in the behavior of the consumers since the covid-19 has spread in the world. Respondents have faced huge reduction in their dine-in sales due to the pandemic and demanded highly hygienic service in the restaurant even if they visit. One of the interviewees stated that,
“Every customer that comes to our restaurant demands highly hygienic food along with clean table, crockery and proper covid-19 protocols adopted by the staffs. With the fear of hygiene, the customers have reduced their visit to our restaurant”.
Such type of responses was given by maximum of the participant managers. Furthermore, the managers stated that the customers have changed their behavior since the commencement of covid-19 because they have restrained themselves from visiting the restaurant and even if they visit, they order nutritious and healthy foods such as salads and juices instead of hard drinks and fried foods. Moreover, they also discussed that the customers are ordering food online more than they are visiting the restaurant. One of the interviewees responded that:
“The pandemic has impacted the choices of customers not only related to the type of food the customers are preferring such as nutritious and health food, however, it has also shifted their purchase from dine-in service to online delivery”.
Consequently, the customers that were involved in the semi-structured interview responded that their demand for safety needs have increased due to the pandemic and now they prefer to keep themselves safe instead of going and eating outside. They accepted that their purchase behavior has shifted from dine-in service to online delivery service. As of the interview stated that:
“safety needs are our priority now, as the pandemic has made it necessary to keep ourselves isolated from crowds and other human contacts. Thus, I prefer ordering food online and eating at home than eating it in the restaurant”.
Findings on Food Consumption Habits in Hospitality Firms During Covid-19
The second theme was to learn the eating habits of consumers from hospitality firms during covid-19. Looking at the interviewees almost all the managers stated that they have observed the change in food consumption behavior of the customers, as consumers are consuming nutritious food more. Similar response was seen from the semi-structured interview with the customers where most of the customers agreed that the pandemic has affected their eating choices in general because they are preferring healthier food to keep their immune system strong. They are preferring to consume foods that are fresh and home made rather than purchasing cooked food from outside. 12 of the interviewees were worried about their health when stating about consuming food outside and the way it has affected their food preferences during the pandemic, which of the interviewees framed as:
“So basically, the pandemic has impacted out eating behavior and we have started consuming healthier food at home such as fresh fruits, vegetables, salads, hot water and others because our health and hygiene play an important role while making food consumption choice now”.
This showed that the food consumption habit of consumers to purchase food in the restaurant is highly impacted by their health concerns, safety and hygiene needs. There were few customers that visited the restaurant in these two days and stated that they avoided visiting the restaurant for consuming food, however, they did order food online during the pandemic. However, even during ordering online we kept safety needs in mind to keep ourselves protected. This can be seen from the responses of some of the interviewees that stated that:
“Yes, there were many times we did purchase food online during the pandemic, however, from restaurants that maintained safety norms and updated their safety norms in the pandemic”.
The responses of the customers aligned with the responses given by the managers of Moorhen Harlow that stated that the restaurant has bought changes in their service and norms since the inception of covid-19 to support their customers. Some of their changes were table booking ahead of visit, making compulsory for staffs and customers to wear masks, collecting contact details of customers, using disposable crockeries, hand sanitizers, safe sanitizing and others. The restaurant has also expanded their online service during the pandemic with all hygienic norms, as stated by almost all the interviewees that:
“Our services have revised keeping in mind all the needs of the pandemic for both dine-in service and delivery service. Customers can also sit back, relax and place their order through our application and receive safe and clean food at home”.
One can argue that the restaurants have been able to eliminate some of the negative impact of the pandemic on their businesses by expanding their online services. This is because few of the interviewees responded an increase in their online sales since the inception of the pandemic. This showed that online sale has helped Moorhen Harlow to reduce the negative impact from pandemic to some extent.
Findings on Food Consumption Habits and Financial Performance During Covid-19
Finally, from the interview with the managers it was found that the change in the food consumption habit during covid-19 has caused a negative impact on financial performance. Most of the managers have shared that there was a reduction in sales during the pandemic with a smaller number of customers coming in the restaurant. However, among all the respondents about 10 of them were of the view that the reduction in sales were majorly due to reduction in dine-fall in customers. The online sales did nots seem to reduce much, as the restaurant received some online orders in a day. This can be seen from the responses of the customers:
“Sales were hit during the covid-19 due to the pandemic as well as the safety needs of the customers. However, the online sales were received during the pandemic as we increased our online service”.
Looking at the different responses received from both the interviews it was seen that the covid-19 pandemic has impacted the eating behavior of the consumers in many ways towards the hospitality firms. The consumers have become more aware of their hygiene and safety concerns with the rising pandemic and are willing to eat healthy and hygienic food. Such responses align with the findings of Hakim et al. (2021) that 40% of the customers are ready to pay more for better safety precautions when visiting the hotel and restaurants. Similarly, the responses show that the consumers have become highly aware of consuming healthy foods such as salads and home-made foods with the fear of getting affected by the virus from outside food. Their eating choices have changed and are now approaching healthier food products. This further aligns with the findings of Baum and Hai (2020) that covid-19 has shifted the preferences of the customers to consume more healthy food than consuming outside junk food. However, many customers as well as the managers in the interview stated that the preferences of using online delivery for food has increased, as some of the customers do prefer to eat at home by ordering online. Similar argument is given by Brewer and Sebby (2021) in the findings that the restaurants have faced a huge increase in their food delivery sales with the rise in covid-19 virus because the households are changing their habits from meals at restaurants with meals at home. This shows that the level of secondary findings aligns with the responses of the interviewees to a large extent.
Further, the consumer participants shared that there are number of factors that plays an important role when they make food consumption choice or eating at the restaurant such as health concerns, safety and hygiene needs. This means that the consumers have become more attentive now when making food consumption choices due to the pandemic with the fear of coming in contact with the virus. This finding aligns with the findings of Hakim et al. (2021) that the customers majorly expect to hotels and restaurants to implement safety procedures and facilitate good hygiene. This shows that the consumers have changed in their behavior to a great extent when eating outside and has left significant impact on the hospitality firms like Moorhen Harlow.
Further, it is seen that the impact of covid-19 and the changed eating behavior of the consumers had an impact on the financial performance of the hospitality firms. The managers of Moorhen Harlow shared that their sales number have reduced with time as the covid-19 started with reduction in footfall of customers. However, the sales from online portal increased over time, as customers started ordering online and preferred to eat at home. Similar findings are received from the sales number founded by Statista (2021e) that before the covid-19 warning, the restaurant groups experienced the biggest fall in sales by 21% that increased to 56.7% as the pandemic started spreading in the economy.
Therefore, the rise in covid-19 pandemic in the economy has largely affected the eating behavior of the consumers towards the hospitality sector in a number of ways. Based on these changes the managers have also stated that the company has taken needed changes in their service as precaution for offer safe environment to the customers during the pandemic. They have aligned with the new norms of the government that has been introduced for the restaurants to offer safe service to the customers along with improving their sales number.
Chapter V: Conclusions
Therefore, it can be stated that the overall findings of the research have successfully answered the research aim that is that impact of covid-19 on the food consumption behavior of the consumers in the hospitality industry. The research has effectively showed that covid-19 has made consumers more aware about their hygiene and safety while consuming food outside in the restaurants. This has restrained them to consumer food in the restaurants and let to a reduction in the sales number of restaurants in UK. Further, it is found that the customers that are visiting the restaurants are considering various factors before choosing the restaurants such as hygiene, cleanliness, safety and others. Moreover, both findings from the interview and secondary research has founded that online delivery from restaurants have increased during the pandemic with more customers preferring to order food and eat at home. However, the overall impact of changes in food consumption habit of the consumers during the pandemic in the restaurants has led a reduction in the sales and financial gains of the industry over time. Some of the scholars and participants showed that to a certain extent online sale has helped in combating some of the financial losses. The research has successfully made use of the secondary sources and primary data collection from the interview to reach the findings. A mixed research has helped in collecting accurate and reliable information to answer the research question.
Even though the methods used in the research was effective in collecting accurate and reliable results and followed all ethical considerations when collecting information from the human respondents, yet the research has met with various limitations. Firstly, lack of journals to review the literature has put a limitation on the extent of information that was received in the changing behavior of the consumers towards the hospitality firms. This is because the study is much recent and not much research has been conducted in this area. This has impacted the secondary data to some extent. Further, interview the customers in the Moorhen Harlow restaurant was challenging and this let to time limitation to gather primary data from the chosen sample. The time limitation has made it difficult to collect an in-depth response from the customers effectively. Moreover, some customers were also not willing to take part in the interview or respond to the discussion. This has limited the extent of information collected from the consumers. Lastly, the case study design has failed to represent the entire population effectively because all the sample was taken from only one small restaurant and not from other medium and large restaurants of UK. This has limited the ability of the researcher to extract more insights of the customers and professionals from the interview to a certain extent and caused a limitation in the research outcome.
Future Scope of Research
The overall research has helped in gaining insight into the way customers have changed their consumption behavior due to covid-19 pandemic on the hospitality sector. The research has also let to the future scope of research in this area such as exploring the extent of precautions and modification that the hospitality firms in UK have taken due to covid-19 pandemic. This research has analyzed the improvement in service that Moorhen Harlow has taken over taken, however, it was limited. Thus, this area of the research can be adopted as broad aim and investigation can be conducted in this area. This would further help the hospitality sector to improve their sales and inform them about the expectation of the consumers at large. This will help in analyzing the covid-19 impact on hospitality sector from business or firms’ point of view.
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Appendix 1: Interview Questions with Managers of Moorhen Harlow
- During covid-19 pandemic what are the special service that the customers are demanding?
- Do the consumers visit the restaurant with same behavior or different behavior after the covid-19?
- What type of food does the consumers prefer when they visit the restaurant after the lockdown was removed?
- Did your sale number reduce since the covid-19 started?
- What are the changes that you bought in your service since the covid-19?
- Did your restaurant start intensive online service since the beginning of covid-19 pandemic?
- Did you receive sales increase from online portals during covid-19?
Appendix 2: Semi-structure interview questions for the Customers
- How familiar are you about the safety needs to be taken during covid-19 pandemic?
- How pandemic has affected your eating choices in general?
- How are you approaching buying food products during the covid-19 pandemic?
- Has the pandemic impacted the way you consume food and hygiene products in restaurants?
- Have you increased your purchase for online food during the pandemic?
- What factors play an important role when you make your food consumption choice?
- Are you preferring to consume food at home instead of consuming food outside in the restaurants in such pandemic period?