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Americans are Tipping More Than Ever Due to COVID-19

"big tippers"

A new study shows consumers are opening up their hearts and their wallets. 

The pandemic may have put the restaurant industry on life support. But their patrons think they have a remedy to help their favorite service industry workers: generosity.

Close to 60 percent of respondents to a recent survey by personal finance site Lending Tree said they’ve become “big tippers.” Why now? Half said a restaurant they loved went out of business during COVID-19.

“The pandemic has been an absolute catastrophe for the restaurant business,” Matt Schulz, a LendingTree executive, said of the research. “So many have closed and so many more are teetering on the edge and will likely continue to until we see a major decrease in COVID-19 cases and these restaurants are open to their full capacity. That’s likely not happening anytime soon.”

But there’s even more. The research shows a snapshot of how American restaurant consumers are responding to the pandemic that you can apply to your business.

Safety protocols matter

There’s no denying the average American is far more conscious of health since the beginning of 2020.

Last March, the University of Chicago released a fascinating study that showed 88 percent of Americans had increased their handwashing in response to recommendations from health experts.

So what does that say about how to run a restaurant? The average consumer cares about cleanliness more than ever. According to Lending Tree’s survey, most diners go out with safety protocols in mind.

An astounding 41 percent said they “left a restaurant because it was overcrowded or people weren’t wearing masks.” A quarter will only sit with their immediate family, and one out of five will only dine at restaurants with outdoor seating.

Change with the times

By this point, COVID-19 is a reality that you need to prepare to fight back against. Until more Americans are fully inoculated and feel safe enough to go out and spend, how do you plan to keep all the business you can?

With consumers going out of their way to rate how bigger franchises are handling safety precautions to COVID-19,  you can bet people your guests remember their experience.

Having a sign that shows face masks are important may be helpful to keep a city code enforcer off your back. But it won’t do much when guests are still walking around without the mask on.

Maybe letting one disgruntled guest get away without wearing one saved you a check that night. It won’t help when others complain on Yelp – or worse OSHA.

Enforcing face mask mandates will make better long-term. Speaking of long-term investments: Give your guests the outdoor seating they want.

More restaurants are throwing the extra money into an outdoor space to seat more guests. The research is there, and it’s safe to say Americans follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines they’re preached about. Make it your missions to check all those boxes.

We end where we began: Guests want you to not only survive right now but thrive. If the research shows us anything, the safety you give them today will pay off later. Don’t join the half of restaurants that didn’t survive the pandemic.