Canadian restaurants have been conducting whatever business they can through take-out and delivery services to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but as provincial restrictions ease, a new poll finds many Canadians still have reservations about dining out.

Fifty-two per cent of Canadians plan to avoid dining at a restaurants for the foreseeable future in order to protect their own health, according to a survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.

“People say they won’t rush back to restaurants, but almost everyone plans to go back eventually,” said Howard Ramos, one of the study’s authors, who is a professor of sociology at Dalhousie University, in a statement.

“This will be hard for SMEs (small-medium enterprises) who may already be on the brink of failing, and it means gift cards or other means of supporting them in the reboot is needed.”

The Ontario government on Monday gave restaurants in some regions of the provinces the green light to begin patio service starting June 12. Restaurant owners within more densely populated regions, such as the Greater Toronto Area, will have to wait until at least June 19.

Eighteen per cent of respondents to the survey, which polled 1,505 Canadians in June, said they plan on eating at a restaurant as soon as possible. Thirty-eight per cent plan on waiting until summer, while one-third of those polled say they will wait until after the presumed second wave of COVID-19.

The findings suggest businesses will have to work hard to make customers feel as though they are safe while dining out again. To that end, 78 per cent of respondents expect to see staff wearing protective equipment, while others want to see plexiglass and disposable menus.

While Canadians may be hesitant about dining in, the study reveals many have been ordering food during the pandemic. In fact, more than two-thirds of those polled said they have been ordering takeout at least every two weeks during the lockdown.

Ordering food for take-out and from delivery apps is most common among young Canadians, with 81 per cent of those between 18 and 34 years old saying they’ve ordered food from restaurants over the past several months.

“Canadians appear to have never given up on restaurants,” said Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Agri-food Analytics Lab, and the study’s lead author in a statement.  “But when you’re at home, there are limitations to enjoying food prepared by a restaurant.”