New research from Constant Contact finds that 52% of consumers say they would feel safe returning to physical stores in less than six months, and 44% said local restaurants, markets, or grocery stores are the first small businesses they will head to.

Consumers expect outdoor dining and curbside pickup/in-store pickup to become standard practices in 2021. Consumers also want to see more creative offerings from restaurants in 2021, like dinner and movie packages (40%), cooking classes (14%), or virtual wine tastings (12%). Just 8% of consumers felt the in-store capacity restrictions should continue into 2021.

Demand for restaurants is high, with 83% of adults saying they are not eating on the premises at restaurants as often as they would like, according to the National Restaurant Association. This is up from 45% pre-pandemic and is the highest level in the two decades the association has asked this survey question. Baby boomers (90%) are the most likely to report they would like to be eating at restaurants more frequently.

This research indicates that pandemic fatigue is ubiquitous and the restaurant industry is well-positioned positioned for a rebound based on consumers' pent-up demand to visit brick-and-mortar locations. Those consumers' expectations have changed quite a bit, however, and casual and fine dining chains that have adopted or refined their outdoor dining and curbside/in-store pickup channels will have an advantage over those that have not.

Read the full article about outdoor dining amid the pandemic by Alicia Kelso at Smart Cities Dive.