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Social listening insights: inflation’s impact on going out

As rising prices begin to bite and the temperatures drop, consumers may be less keen to venture out. This could be a dagger through the hearts of both the entertainment and hospitality sectors, which are still recovering from the pandemic.

Just how likely is this happen? As part of our cost-of-living series, we decided to find out. We wanted to discover whether audiences are looking to rein in their trips out, or if these treats will remain a fixture to help people get through the winter months.

To find out, we turned to social media. Using a social listening tool, we gathered conversations from US and UK audiences who were discussing what activities they were doing when going out, plus words related to affordability or inflation. We then uploaded this data from both audiences into the Relative Insight text analysis platform.

Relative Insight uses comparison to surface the differences between two sets of data. In this case, that means that we were able to distinguish the key discussion points about going out in the US and UK – extracting social listening insights for entertainment and hospitality businesses in the process. It’s fair to say that companies in these sectors are in for a struggle.

Americans worry about others, Brits concerned about themselves

When it comes to the impact of inflation on the entertainment and hospitality sector, our audience analysis shows that Americans and Brits talk about different things. This likely comes from the varying nature of how inflation is hitting both countries.

For Brits, energy bills dominate. When talking about entertainment or hospitality activities, people in the UK preface these discussions with the fact that rising energy bills are hampering what they can afford to do. They were 2.0x more likely to discuss the topic of energy and 5.3x more likely to use the word ‘energy’.

I used to like going out but now I save money for my energy bills.

We have a decent income but we’ve stopped going out as the energy bills have taken over: that’s stopped us spending money in the local pubs and restaurants who will either now pay less into the economy, or worse close, and rely on government support: it’s ridiculous.

In the US, discussions focus around how cutbacks could affect people who have jobs in these sectors – particularly restaurant workers. Americans are 12.4x more likely to discuss ’employees’ of these businesses, with the words ‘tip’ and ‘minimum’ (relating to the minimum wage) respectively appearing 4.1x and 10.4x more often.

How much of that increase is going to restaurant workers who are also facing inflation?

…but when it comes to restaurants, making employees rely on tips to make at least minimum wage is terrible.

A contrast in food savings for each country

The focus on tipping and servers’ pay is in part because Americans are looking to cut back on restaurant meals. Our social listening insights highlighted that people in the US were far more likely to say they were eschewing restaurants for home-cooked meals. The work ‘cooking’ appeared 2.9x more often in their discussions, while they were also 15.3x more likely to highlight the ingredients that they were buying at ‘grocery’ stores.

…eating out for sure. I save so much more money buying groceries and cooking.

im so sick of cooking, but I must keep going because eating out daily is just way to expensive.

For Brits, it was less going out to restaurants themselves and more ordering takeout which could be cut. They were 36.9x more likely to discuss ‘takeaways’ as areas where they could make savings, often highlighting the cost and the fact that takeouts tend to be unhealthy.

Families on a tight budget won’t be able to afford it. But if you’re on a tight budget takeaways are unaffordable anyway. We all need to prioritise our spending.

Take away the takeaways £20+ a week on food that makes you fat is a shit idea. Eat healthy. Save money. Have a takeaway rarely.

Multiplexes, pubs and theaters under threat

Away from restaurants and food, consumers in each country expressed concern over differing aspects of the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

In the UK, our social listening insights highlighted that conversations focused on the futures of pubs and theaters. While audiences didn’t actively say that they couldn’t afford to go to either venue, they’re concerned that these types of businesses are in a precarious position. Brits were 1.5x more likely to talk about the topic of ‘drinking‘ and 27.7x to mention ‘pubs’, while they were 2.7x more likely to talk about ‘theaters’ – with the latter often associated with the worry that tickets prices are dissuading cash-strapped patrons from attending.

Found out a very busy pub/ restaurant on our highstreet has given its staff 2 months notice. They can’t afford to stay open. And if they can’t, others will follow.

Nobody having any cash means nobody’s going to the theatre so both funding and box office income are down…

In the US, attention is focused on movie theaters’ long-term prospects, with Americans 8.6x more likely to discuss movies. Many highlighted the cost of going to the movies – with some even comparing the cost to buying streaming services.

We used to have those here but they are all chains now. I seriously think ticket prices are going to have to be lowered to completely lure people back to the cinemas but that will probably never happen. It’s expensive for a family of 5 to have a night out at the movies! 💰 💰 💰”

I pay the high cost of cable on my tivo( lifetime subscription) for @tcm so I can watch 2 channels at the same time and skip thru commercials. We chose that over going out to movies and stuff. makes life better for us. 🤠”

How hospitality and entertainment businesses can make the best of the situation

These social listening insights will make grim reading for many in the hospitality and entertainment sectors, however, they can take action based on what our research has uncovered.

American restaurants emphasizing that they pay their workers fairly (and of course actually doing this) are more likely to maintain business than those who don’t. The experience of eating out or watching movies in theaters will need to be a central pillar of restaurants’ and multiplexes’ strategies – with businesses in both industries needing to come up with reasons why people should attend their establishments over staying at home and doing similar things more cost effectively.

Takeaway companies (and the restaurants that supply them) need to do something similar in the UK – persuading people not to resort to cost-effective home cooking. Pubs and theaters should tap into the emotional connection British patrons feel for these types of venues, perhaps even being honest that the venue’s survival depends on their attendance if things look perilous.

While discussions about energy bills are much harder for hospitality and entertainment brands to act upon, businesses are facing the same issues – giving vendors and consumers a sense of connection through misery. Some risk-taking brands could even be willing to highlight that attending their venue reduces the amount of time customers need to spend heating their homes – although with people in the UK discussing whether they “heat or eat”, firms taking this approach must be careful with their messaging to avoid sounding crass.

By conducting text analysis on this much-discussed topic, we’ve surfaced some interesting facets to some foreseeable trends which enable hospitality and entertainment businesses in the US and UK to take action to hone their competitiveness beyond cutting prices – which is an obvious action they’ll already have considered.

Understand different audiences