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To party or not to party? The return of the office Christmas party is being met with some reluctance, as the latest research from Mintel reveals more than four in ten (41%) British workers* say the risk of catching coronavirus is making them feel uncomfortable about going to a work Christmas party.

Fear of catching COVID-19 remains high as 43% of consumers now say they are worried/extremely worried about catching the virus – similar to the 44% who said the same in early November 2020. But it’s not just office parties that are making consumers nervous, as one in four (24%) Brits are uncomfortable/extremely uncomfortable about going to a bar or restaurant indoors.

One potential reason for lingering discomfort around socialising could be that the majority (61%) of Brits say they plan to limit their time in crowded areas before seeing family for Christmas. Meanwhile, when it comes to Christmas 2021, it would seem that less is more as 44% of Brits say they are planning on having a smaller Christmas (with fewer people) this year compared to before the pandemic.

Paul Davies, Mintel Foodservice and Leisure Research Director, said:

“Even before the emergence of the Omicron variant, concerns about being exposed to COVID-19 were running high. Now, the constant media attention surrounding the new strain will focus people’s minds on balancing the desire for festive socialising with their worries about potentially being infected.

“According to Mintel’s latest research, 58% of Brits feel it is important that people wear masks in bars and restaurants, suggesting that hospitality businesses can help put people at ease by encouraging both staff and customers to wear a mask – even though it’s not compulsory.

“Meanwhile, hospitality venues could follow the supermarkets by introducing ‘quiet’ hours for those wanting to avoid crowded places. Pubs and restaurants could manage the number of visitors at off-peak times and offer private dining spaces to welcome those who would like to celebrate Christmas at a venue, but feel anxious about mixing with people they don’t know.”

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