Was it good intentions or post-Christmas guilt after all? Whatever the reason, the Netherlands got moving in the tail end of the old year. More Dutch people took up sports and actively went outside. At the same time - despite concerns about energy prices and higher spending in general - we continued to eat out en masse. This appears from the Consumer Behavior Monitor, an initiative of Validators and VU Amsterdam.

We started the year actively: 41% of the Dutch traded the glitter dress and Christmas sweater for a sporty outfit to exercise once or twice a week (week 50 31%). And the number of people exercising three to four times a week also increased from 11% (Week 50) to 16% (Week 52). For outdoor activities such as a walk in nature, the group that never does so was smaller than before: from 31% in week 50 to 22% in week 52.

Good intentions
Perhaps good intentions were a driver of athletic behavior. In fact, moving more is the most frequently mentioned good intention for 2023 (41%), along with the desire to have "more time for yourself" (41%). Eating and drinking healthier and spending less money share second place (37%). Finally, 12% say they want to quit smoking.

Daan Muntinga, strategy director at Mensch: 'That there is a yawning gap between intentions and behavior, everyone who starts (or stops) something every January 1 knows all about that. Starting is one thing, but how do you keep it up? How do you stay away from cigarettes; how do you make sure it doesn't stop with just a few trips to the exercise bike? Many of us could use a little help in keeping our resolutions. Brands that can do that credibly do well to support us in word and deed.

A good example of a brand that is now picking up momentum with an appropriate new brand campaign is Holland & Barrett. Under the heading "Live with the power of nature," the brand wants to make people aware of the importance of being outdoors and the life force that nature provides. In turn, this same force of nature is linked to various product groups.

Restaurants rarely as crowded
Besides or after exercising, we can still be found in restaurants a lot. 38% of the Dutch have spent money on restaurant visits and take-away in the last two weeks. Young people (18-34 years old) eat out most often: 50% visited a restaurant or took a meal out. The hospitality industry is also noticing that people are going out regularly again. Earlier this week, nu.nl reported that the income of the catering industry are back at the level they were before corona. However, costs have increased greatly due to higher energy and purchase prices and staff shortages.

Marcel van Brenk, Partner EY VODW: "If you look at really big cities like New York or London, you see that very little cooking is done at home. Many people don't even have a kitchen, also given the high square meter price. The Financial Times published an article despite that, showing that people spend more money on eating out than on groceries. That we continue to eat out en masse we previously called dancing on the volcano, but it may very well become a new trend in the Netherlands.'

Every turbulent economic situation is another challenge to the status quo. Entrepreneurs in hospitality were tested for inventiveness and creativity during corona. New forms of ordering and delivery emerged, there was high end fast food, restaurants and suppliers became partners in business. Even now that everything is becoming business as usual again, you see new behaviors emerging. Anyone who wants to eat out at a good restaurant in the Randstad has to make reservations weeks in advance. Often with time slots, a habit left over from the corona period. Spontaneous dinners thus become a rare moment of happiness.

Smart business owners keep their guests in longer by offering those using the last time slot the opportunity for drinks and dancing as well. Once last desserts are consumed, tables are expertly lifted away and the DJ already warms up with some happy tunes. The strict division between café, restaurant and discotheque is blurring and making room for more hybrid forms of hospitality.

We are curious to see how the enthusiastic restaurant visitation will continue, as many people say they want to eat and drink healthier and spend less money. We'll keep you posted in upcoming editions of the Consumer Behavior Monitor.

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