Nearly half of Americans say they’re ready to return to restaurants in May, despite experts warning the coronavirus pandemic is far from over

Waffle House restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, on Monday, April 27, 2020. AP Photo/Russ Bynum
  • Nearly half of Americans said they would feel comfortable returning to in-restaurant dining this May, according to a Gordon Haskett survey released on Monday.
  • If even close to half of Americans feel comfortable eating in restaurants in May, analyst Jeff Farmer said, it would “sizably outpace” current expectations for recovery.
  • Infectious disease experts warn that the pandemic is far from over, and restaurant industry experts have said they anticipate a slow and uneven recovery.
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Customers are ready to return to restaurants, even as experts warn about further waves of the coronavirus outbreak.

Nearly half of respondents said that they would feel comfortable returning to in-restaurant dining within the month of May, according to a Gordon Haskett survey released on Monday. Analyst Jeff Farmer has been surveying more than 300 households in recent weeks to gauge their reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

“If consumer comfort with in-restaurant dining proves to be anywhere near this level, the early-stage casual dining concept volume recovery will sizably outpace current market expectations, in our view,” Farmer wrote in Monday’s report.

While some states began reopening dining rooms last week, many fast-food chains and independent restaurants have kept interiors closed. Further, industry insiders say they anticipate an uneven recovery, in part because customers are not yet comfortable returning to stores.

For example, while Waffle House opened dining rooms in Georgia and Tennessee last week, director of public relations Njeri Boss told Business Insider that the news was hardly met with a flood of customers to stores. Waffle Hous same-store sales have been down 70% during the pandemic.

PepsiCo CEO Ramon Laguarta said on a call with investors last Tuesday that the company expects “ups and downs,” with the potential for second waves of COVID-19 cases and new decisions about lockdowns.

“We don’t think it’s going to be a straight line once people go back to moving around … with potential second waves in some particular markets,” Laguarta said.

Infectious disease experts are also warning that the pandemic is far from over. Last week, a new report from researchers at the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy presented three scenarios for how the coronavirus pandemic will progress in the coming months.

Business Insider’s Aylin Woodward reports that researchers determined that the most likely scenario to be the worst one. In this scenario, the current wave of COVID-19 cases is followed by a larger wave in the fall or winter of 2020, as well as one or more smaller subsequent waves in 2021, which would likely require further lockdowns.