New survey shows Windsor-Essex diners apprehensive of dining return

WINDSOR, ONT. — A new survey shows most diners in Windsor-Essex are willing to return to restaurants once dining rooms reopen, but many are nervous and unwilling to pay increased prices for what will be a quite different experience.

The survey from WindsorEats had 530 respondents and was presented to members of the hospitality group on Tuesday.

The questionnaire shows 58 per cent of diners are still nervous about eating out, and 62 per cent say higher menu prices than what was seen pre-pandemic may keep them home.

“The restaurants are kind of caught in the middle of, ‘are we able to open up and still be able to make a profit with these higher expenses if the customers aren’t willing to come and dine out with higher prices?’” said Adriano Ciotoli, co-owner of WindsorEats.

In an interview with CTV News, Ciotoli says the dining experience is expected to undergo dramatic changes once approvals come from government and health officials — which will lead to increased costs for restaurateurs.

“It’s almost a forgone conclusion that the whole dining experience is going to be completely different,” said Ciotoli.

Masked wait staff, disposable menus and cutlery, and even dining time limits to ensure turnover are all possible changes the hospitality industry could implement to reopen and limit the potential spread of COVID-19.

The survey also notes 75 per cent are ready to get out of the house, including 16 per cent who “have no concerns whatsoever” but, 25 per cent surveyed will “definitely avoid eating out” when restaurants reopen.

“What that really shows us is that the restaurants really have to be absolutely spot on in terms of their health and safety protocols,” said Ciotoli.

Nick Politi, owner of Nico Taverna in Windsor’s Via Italia district, has considered installing plexiglass panels inside his Erie Street restaurant to separate and protect diners.

Other measures include potential temperature checks, table hand sanitizer, and a parking lot patio to add physically distanced seating.

“It’s not ideal,” said Politi. “If that’s what we have to do, then that’s what we have to do. I’m sure people will be understanding because of the situation.”

While the pandemic dining experience may not be as care-free, Politi is cautiously optimistic diners will return.

The pull to get out of the house may just be strong enough.

“I am hearing places in Europe and even in the States that the restaurants are still getting busy,” Politi said. “People just need to escape, need to get out of their house and want to be out and see people.”

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