What does the post-Covid19 world look like? The question is impossible to ignore. There are one thousand ways to phrase it, but in the end, it’s the same question. The only question. And yet, even with the collective brain power and insight of nearly every industry expert, economic guru and joe-schmoe across the board, there are no straightforward answers. As we near mid-May, states and localities across the nation are beginning to lift various stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders. Despite the political or medical reasoning behind them, most of these re-opening decisions come with a wide-range of guidelines and requirements. In the Kansas City metropolitan area, we are doing our best to adhere to the requirements of the two states, five counties and countless municipalities that make up the KC metro. Occupancy limits, required face coverings and the magical six-foot social distance rules are the norm, as well as strict limits on how certain businesses are able to operate, if at all. It’s safe to assume that the “re-opening” of America will be a process, and one that looks different depending on where you live.
We could wrack our brains thinking about the various ways retailers, restaurants and service-focused businesses are navigating the currently typhoon-like waters, but let’s take a step back and look up to the big picture. Let’s fast forward to the next phase of recovery, whenever that may be. What are the lasting effects of the pandemic that will likely fuel consumer behavior for the foreseeable future?
Two primary needs seem to be dominating the consumer outlook on re-opening: the need for physical safety and social connection. While these normally fall adjacent to one another in a hierarchy of human needs, never before have they been at such odds with each other. In the recent past, the shops, restaurants and businesses we visited as consumers have had a relatively low threshold for satisfying customers’ need to feel safe. Today, 95% of consumers want companies to implement physical protection and distancing measures to help keep them healthy1. Though dining out is second only to family gatherings as America’s “most missed” activities2, restaurants face even more stringent expectations from the customers who are striving to support them. In a Techtomic poll3 focused on the restaurant operation in a post-COVID world, nearly 55% of all consumers surveyed expect to see more hand sanitizer dispensers to make them feel “safe and comfortable” inside restaurants. Additionally, 56% said they’d like to see staff “visibly cleaning” high-touch areas3. Also high on the list of diner demands are having all employees wear gloves, seeing fewer tables, and single-use condiments, utensils and menus.