How shopping and eating out has changed during the pandemic

We explore ways Canadians have supported local, small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The author(s)
  • Kendra Jones Director, Channel Performance
Get in touch

Canadians, like our global counterparts, have experienced a lot of change since COVID-19 sparked the first wave of lockdowns in March 2020. Since then, while lockdowns have been lifted and then re-imposed across the country, how and where Canadians shop and dine has been affected.

Ipsos’ Global Advisor asked people from around the world about these changes, and specifically about how and when customers are supporting small businesses in these new interactions. While globally the support for small business varied, with many customers tending toward the bigger brands, there was some distinction in Canada when we dig deeper. There is a clear shift in which channels Canadians are using, and an opportunity for chain and local businesses to create positive experiences and continue to build their relationship and connection with customers, despite seeing them in-person less often.

Young people the most likely to change habits

Canadian consumers under age 35 reported the greatest incidence of changed behavior since COVID-19 hit. The Under 35 cohort were the most likely to try new products (14%), and were also the most likely to increase ordering takeout/delivery from both chain and local restaurants – 3 times the increase seen in the 50-75 age group. That said, the 35-49 group reported the greatest increase in online shopping (55%), with women (59%) more likely to have increased online shopping than men.

Who is eating out?

Public health guidelines across Canada have discouraged eating in restaurants since the start of the pandemic, and although some areas have re-opened restaurants, Canadians continue to report they are eating home-cooked meals than before COVID (47%). Local restaurants have definitely taken a hit, with 69% of Canadians indicating they are eating out at local restaurants less often than before.

Those in the Prairies were most likely to increase food delivery or takeout from local restaurants specifically (33%) with customers in BC least likely to increase patronage of local restaurants (19%). Lower income households were most likely to increase ordering from local restaurants (30%) while Medium income households were most likely to decrease (36%).

Canadians largely avoided in-person dining, with 70% or more indicating they were doing this less at chains, and 66% or more indicating they were doing this less at locally owned restaurants. This aligns with public health guidelines across the country as well. Regionally, Albertans were most likely to increase in-restaurant dining at chains (4%) while Prairies were most likely to increase in-restaurant dining at a locally-owned establishment (13%).

Where are they shopping?

Despite non-essential trips being discouraged for a large part of 2020, Canadians still wanted to shop. Shoppers in the Prairie region were most likely to increase in-person shopping at a small or locally owned business (21%), nearly double the rate of other provinces. This may indicate a pivot to focusing on local, but may also be an indication of an earlier reopening in the Prairie provinces relative to the rest of the country, with opening in early May, versus late June in other regions. That said, Prairie provinces did also lockdown again earlier in the autumn than other regions. Atlantic Canada were most likely to decrease in-person shopping at small businesses (45%) but also most likely to decrease in-person shopping at a chain/major retailer (69%) – perhaps more of a signal of adherence to public health guidelines than purchase intent.

Some Canadians have pivoted to increasing purchases from farmers or local manufacturers, specifically in Quebec (22%) and among Business Owners (27%). Also, notably, lower income families have reported a strong increase in supporting local (22%).

Online shopping, not distinguished whether this was through a local business or a chain, increased across the board, with 50% or more Canadians reporting an increase in this activity across all regions. BC saw the largest reported increase in online shopping (58%), along with high-income households (55%). Medium income households reported a greater likelihood to try new products (11%) while lower income households were most likely to stick with products they know (11%).

Ipsos can help

With such a strong pivot among Canadian consumers to ordering food for pickup or delivery, and online shopping, it is now more important than ever for businesses to measure the experience they provide across channels, ensuring there is a consistent experience for their customers. Businesses need to know what their customers expect across touchpoints and channels, and how teams are delivering on these expectations, as well as on operational and public health standards. Measuring Customer Experience and Channel Performance enable informed decision-making on how your business can continually grow.

Ipsos Canada has tools that can help. Learn more about food ordering and delivery through the Delivery Unlocked syndicated program. This study focuses on order execution via 3rd party delivery apps as well the partnership between the apps and location restaurants.   Or learn more about shopping habits and consumer preferences with the Ipsos Consumer Check-In syndicated program. The Check-In study examines which measures matter most to Canadians when it comes to shopping in the current environment. Most importantly this study will help understands how consumer experiences line up with their expectations. Alternately, our standalone Health + Safety Compliance Mystery Shops can help you avoid fines or closures for non-compliance with government regulations, and our Social Distancing Live Occupancy Counter helps locations manage head count and traffic flow using new or existing footfall counters, and can be set to recognize mask wearing in the location as well. Reach out to our team of experts to learn about custom solutions to better understand your customers, and how you are delivering experiences to them. For information, please email [email protected].

The author(s)
  • Kendra Jones Director, Channel Performance

Customer experience