It will come as little surprise to most that the number of digital takeout orders has soared during the COVID-19 pandemic. But new research from the NDP Group has lifted the lid on just how big the spike has been.
Digital ordering was a life-saving avenue for many restaurants and foodservice operators across North America in 2020, and continues to be a critical facet of sales today.
According to NPD numbers, in the full pandemic year ending March 2021, restaurant digital orders in the U.S. more than doubled, growing 124 per cent compared to the prior year.
Over that time, digital orders for carry-out, which represented 62 per cent of all digital orders, increased by 130 per cent, and digital orders for delivery grew by 142 per cent in the period compared to year ago. That represents a 38 per cent share of total restaurant digital orders.
In particular, digital takeout orders offered full-service restaurants crucial support while they were subject to varying degrees of mandated dine-in restrictions.
Prior to the pandemic, full-service restaurants (FSRs) represented a 10 per cent share of digital orders, but as of the year ending March 31 that had risen to 16 per cent. FSR digital takeout orders more than tripled, enjoying a huge 237 spike during that time.
Meanwhile, quick-service digital orders, which represented the remaining 84 per cent share, also saw triple-digit growth of 111 per cent.
Restaurant apps and websites are the most-used channels for digital ordering, representing 62 per cent of all digital takeout orders. However, third-party delivery apps have thrived. Digital orders from apps like DoorDash or UberEats soared by 207 per cent in the period compared to the 98 per cent increase in digital orders through restaurant apps and websites.
“It’s unlikely that digital ordering will grow at the same pace it has during the pandemic once restaurants fully open, but it’s table stakes for restaurants now,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Digital ordering is all about elevated convenience and ease and that’s what makes consumers tick.”