online ordering

2021 Canadian restaurant online ordering trends

After a challenging couple of years, restaurateurs have learned how to adapt to keep their doors open and their businesses thriving. The rise of off-premise dining and third-party delivery point to online ordering as a key component of engaging today’s customers with the convenient, fulfilling experiences they crave. 

A new report by DoorDash, 2021 Restaurant Online Ordering Trends, takes an in-depth look at how online ordering preferences and dining trends have transformed this year. This report draws from a May 2021 survey of 1,506 customers across Canada exploring what consumers are looking for when ordering online.

Read on for an overview of how your customers’ needs are evolving — and discover tips for consistently delivering an unparalleled digital dining experience. 

Consumer behaviours have changed

During the pandemic, consumer dining habits changed in a dramatic way. A full 74 per cent of those surveyed by DoorDash said they hadn’t eaten a single meal in a restaurant in the past month, and 13 per cent said they only ate out once. 

But this shift in dining behaviour didn’t mean that customers stopped giving restaurants their business altogether— it just shifted how. Of those surveyed, 92 per cent of people said they ordered pickup at least once in the past month, and 70 per cent of people had ordered delivery at least once in the past month.  

Survey results indicated that price, quality, and speed were the key factors. When deciding whether to order pickup, delivery, or dine-in, 77 per cent of customers said that low fees were important, 74 per cent said that the quality of the ordering experience was important, and seven per cent said that the speed at which they receive their food was important. 

Unlike their American counterparts, Canadians are less willing to pay for delivery and service fees. In fact, third-party statistics confirm that 45.7 per cent of Canadians are unwilling to pay any delivery and service fee, which is important to keep in mind. 

On-demand options keep customers satisfied

The growth of the food delivery industry, which had been trending upwards for years, accelerated even further during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-pandemic, food delivery encompassed nine per cent of full-service restaurant sales in Canada; by April 2020, it accounted for 28 per cent of full-service restaurant sales

In an ever-evolving, increasingly busy world, delivery provides customers with convenient access to delicious, high-quality food. The key to optimizing food delivery is to offer options that revolve around convenience and choice.

According to the report, 71 per cent of customers choose delivery because it’s more convenient for them. Customers can quickly access high-quality food — without having to leave the comfort of their own home — by ordering delivery. What’s more, offering delivery through a third-party platform is a great way for restaurants to add a new revenue stream without steep overhead costs. 

But pickup continues to prevail. While food delivery is convenient, the study showed that when customers choose pickup over delivery, it’s usually because they live close to the restaurant or feel it will be faster than delivery. 

And pickup customers are nothing if not loyal. In fact, 72 per cent of customers ordered pickup from their favourite restaurant three or more times in the past year — and 22 per cent ordered pickup 10+ times. 

RELATED: How Roch Le Coq in Montreal doubled sales with delivery

Rise of digital means new priorities for restaurants

As restaurants continue to adapt in the post-pandemic era, optimizing your online offerings should be a priority — both on your own website and on third-party sites. Why? Because online ordering was the number one way customers ordered delivery or pickup — with 40 per cent of customers preferring a third-party website or app and 25 per cent choosing to order through the restaurant’s own website or app. 

With 86 per cent of Canadian households now in possession of at least one mobile phone,  a mobile-friendly format is increasingly important for your restaurant’s website, along with an attractive website design, appetizing visual elements, and unique brand customization to engage potential customers. High-quality images of the dishes you serve can also set you apart from competitors and tempt website visitors into ordering. 

And another way to boost your restaurant’s online presence is by partnering with a third-party app. With 19 per cent of customers turning to third-party sites when selecting a restaurant for delivery or takeout, presence on an online delivery app can help restaurants reach more customers.  

With both a branded online ordering system on your website, and a presence on third-party delivery apps, your restaurant can reach more customers looking for both delivery and pickup options. 

Creativity and adaptability pay off

Although restaurateurs faced a number of hurdles and challenges in 2020, we saw ingenuity and innovation in finding new ways to keep customers satisfied through user-friendly online ordering systems and efficient pickup and delivery services. 

Sumac, a Montreal-based Middle Eastern restaurant, grew their monthly DoorDash sales by 493 per cent during COVID-19. After dine-in services shut down, Sumac rolled out meal kits, alcohol offerings, and mini market items to increase off-premise sales — ultimately boosting average monthly ticket sizes by seven per cent. 

Above all else, our report shows that consumers want options — and off-premise dining provides flexibility and accessibility to great food when and where they want it.

Craving more in-depth insights on the evolving restaurant landscape and consumers’ online ordering trends? Download the 28-page 2021 Restaurant Online Ordering Trends report to get ahead of your customers’ needs and strengthen your digital dining experience. 

If you’re interested in partnering with DoorDash, explore our plans and pricing and get started with 60 days commission-free before December 31, 2021.