Dining in the city key to reinvigorating life in the CBD

After months of working at home, how do Time Out readers feel about going into the city centre? By Delima Shanti

At the end of 2020, Time Out surveyed 2,656 readers and asked them how they felt about socialising and going back out into the city. We wanted to learn how our readers felt about returning to life in the CBD, because we felt it would provide an indication of their intent to re-engage with the venues, events and activities that make our cities vibrant.

Contextually, when the survey was conducted in November, Victoria had passed the enviable benchmark of going 30 days without recording a new Covid-19 case, and the government announced workplaces could begin the slow return to the office. Meanwhile in NSW, city workers were also gradually returning to the office, with the government encouraging public transport users to wear marks while they were commuting. 

After eight months of restrictions, it’s understandable that the return to the city was going to be tentative. When asked how often they went into the city centre or CBD, 31% of Time Out’s survey respondents said they rarely visit the city, however, a total of 32% reported going to the city at least once a week or more.

But how does current foot traffic in the city compare to pre-Covid levels? In Melbourne at least, pedestrian numbers haven’t quite bounced back. Data from City of Melbourne shows foot traffic through Bourke Street Mall in January 2021 was down more than 50% year on year despite a spike in December through the festive season. The challenge the city faces now is how we can get people to return to the CBD.

Source: City of Melbourne, total pedestrian counts through Bourke Street Mall (North and South) between January 2020 – January 2021.

Thinking about what could encourage more people to return, Time Out asked readers the main reasons they pounded the city pavements back in November 2020.  Just over 1 in 4 of survey respondents reported going to the city to work, but what stands out is 66% saying they were going into the city to wine and dine. Clearly, there’s high intent among Time Out readers to go to the city to eat, drink, shop and socialise. This also shows that even though offices haven’t fully opened yet, in Melbourne and Sydney, the dining scene is a strong drawcard to entice people back in.

Source: Time Out reader survey 4- 25 Nov 2020.

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