COVID-19 has changed so many aspects of our everyday lives including how we live, play and work. Amidst our current physical distancing environment, consumers who previously prioritized community-building environments are now seeking safe ones.

According to a Datassential poll, 76% of consumers reported that a restaurant’s cleanliness and food safety procedures will always matter more to the consumer than it did before, while 40% of consumers stated that their top safety concern is being too close to other people/patrons.

Senior Vice President of Customer Experience Michael Fiato leads our team that manages our Voice of the Customer business insights program and tracks market trends. He’s sharing more about the evolving consumer demands he’s tracking as people prepare to return to the workplace.

What have you heard from our customers as they return to the workplace?
COVID-19 has truly brought safety to the forefront. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, every survey we conducted had the same top three responses on what customers were looking for: variety, quality, and value. Since March, the responses have all placed safety first: personal safety and food safety. This tells us that in order to be successful, we need to create the safest space possible for our guests.
How has physical distancing changed the customer experience?
It changes everything! Our traditional lunch rush may need to be restructured because we know that 60% of our guests won’t feel safe in a crowded marketplace, meaning we will need to limit the amount of guests in the marketplace at one time. That alone will increase the length of the lunch hour. Additionally, many dining rooms will be transformed or may even close as facility managers encourage employees to eat at their desk or at outside patios. With the dining experience becoming more singular, guests will expect our meals to be packaged, mobile, and safe. We can expect big changes.

We know that 60% of our guests won’t feel safe in a crowded marketplace.”

What is Eurest doing to respond to these evolving consumer demands?
We know that 38% of our guests are apprehensive about touching anything that was touched by another guest. With that in mind, we have eliminated all self-serve stations including our salad bar, Graze stations and utensil and condiment stations. We have also adapted our Eurest brands and concepts to be served pre-packaged, and we have expanded our grab-and-go options for speed of service.

We have also enhanced our cleaning and sanitization practices. This has always been a top priority and best practice within our organization; we’re just kicking things up a notch by increasing the frequency in which we wipe down our tables, chairs, microwaves, cooler doors, exit areas and all other high-touch surfaces. We know this is essential to giving our guests confidence when they dine with us.

What types of food are guests looking for as they dine with us again?
This has been really interesting. As many of our guests were quarantined or effected by stay-at-home orders, they were forced to cook most of their own meals for weeks. So now, they’re looking to us to bring them more variety. Trends also show a huge increase in the sale of bakery items, alcohol and pasta, so we anticipated guests may be looking to us for healthier options.

Over 70% of the dishes we are serving today are hot. In addition, consumers are looking for foods that boost immunity and promote wellness. So overall, we are seeing a more adventurous guest returning to our marketplace as they return to the workplace, and the culinary team is loving it! Our Eurest brands, micro-concepts, and ethnic options are perfect matches for our guests’ needs.

How are we using technology as a safety strategy for our guests?
Quarantine and stay-at-home orders taught many guests how to order online. The need for mobile ordering could transform our business. Technology enhances experience by allowing guests to personalize orders, remember favorites, and offer rewards for loyalty. Our guests will look for low-touch choices and want the option to quickly and efficiently order, pick up, and go…all from their smartphone. And who doesn’t enjoy rewards? We are currently doing a massive deployment of the mobile ordering platform, Eatify to meet this demand. A guest can check with their marketplace’s manager for details.
Datassential. (2020, June). The Magnificent Seven. Retrieved from the Datassential Community Resources Portal.
Michael Fiato, SVP Customer Experience


Mike has a passion for guest service and creating a workplace atmosphere that inspires great experiences for our team and our guests. He spends the majority of his time in the field working with our associates and customers. He personally develops and delivers guest service training for over 2,000 associates every year. In addition, he has conducted focus groups with over 125,000 guests and has an in-depth understanding of consumers. A keen focus on generational preferences and business types has helped Eurest drive guest loyalty build same-store sales.