Majority of UK consumers still uncomfortable with eating out
The majority of consumers are still uncomfortable with eating in a restaurant, with 54% saying it will take "months or longer" before they feel comfortable.
Data published in the latest EY Future Consumer Index found that only slightly more than a quarter (27%) of UK consumers are comfortable with eating out, despite the widespread success of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which has contributed to many pubs and restaurants being fully booked on Monday to Wednesday during August.
The figures showed that 23% of more than 1,000 consumers surveyed said they felt comfortable visiting a bar or pub as restrictions ease, 45% said it will take months before they feel comfortable, and 9% said it will take years.
However, comfort levels have increased since the June's index, which was conducted before the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was announced, when only 19% of UK consumers felt comfortable with eating in a restaurant and 17% were comfortable with going to a bar or pub.
The data comes ahead of the hospitality sector's calls for the government to extend the Help Out to Eat Out scheme, which is due to end on Monday (31 August).
Christian Mole, EY UK & Ireland head of hospitality and leisure, said: "The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been a welcome intervention which has undoubtedly boosted both revenues and morale across the hospitality sector, but has only been in place for a limited time to a limited effect.
"It's clear it will still take months before the majority of consumers feel comfortable with eating out so it's not surprising that businesses are calling for an extension to the scheme beyond 31 August."
He also expressed concern that consumer demand in city centres remained at "very low levels", adding that a return to previous commuting levels seemed "very unlikely in the short-term".
He added: "Decreased levels of business travel and continuing restrictions on inbound tourism are also placing considerable pressure on the hotel sector, and we anticipate a struggle for many operators to achieve profitable occupancy levels for the foreseeable future."