If there’s one third-party delivery selling point we can agree on, it’s that it’s changed the type of food consumers order. And for restaurant operators, it means more data to analyze menu trends outside the restaurant than also affect four-wall business. Essentially, people aren’t just ordering pizza and Chinese food. Since options are plentiful, we don’t need to view transactions through a strictly convenience-shaded lens anymore.
In other terms, just because somebody ordered delivery, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t pick the same thing if they were dining in. Historically, consumers either called in for take-out at their favorite, local spot or were left with the tradeoff aggregators have since erased—picking restaurants for delivery because they offer delivery, to put it simply.
Operators can now examine delivery purchasing habits that, in fact, influence menu innovation across all occasions, off-premises or not.
Grubhub released its annual “Year in Food” report Wednesday, analyzing tens of millions of orders placed by more than 21 million diners. The goal: uncover the flavors and tastes rising up the ranks.
Let’s look at some key takeaways:
Unsurprisingly, plant-based foods produced a banner year. The majority of 2019’s top choices comprised of vegetarian- or vegan-friendly options. The percentage figure is how much the item rose in popularity throughout the year.
1. Cauliflower pizza: 650 percent
2. Spicy Brussel sprouts: 622 percent
3. Portobello empanada: 601 percent
4. Black bean & sweet potato taco: 513 percent
5. Miso pork ramen: 413 percent
6. Chicken burger: 318 percent
7. Bone broth: 298 percent
8. Brown sugar milk [bubble] tea: 281 percent
9. Vegan pad Thai: 280 percent
10. Impossible Burger: 203 percent
Some interesting notes: Cauliflower saw a huge leap. Dishes with the product took home the No. 7 and No. 10 spots in 2018. It led the charge this year (this is something brands like California Pizza Kitchen are probably pretty excited about).
Vegetarian- and vegan-friendly dishes grabbed seven of the top 10 spots. Last year, it was just three.
Full-service restaurants in particular have enjoyed stellar growth in the segment, especially where it concerns brunch and the bar. It’s a key differentiator from quick service—a sector that long dominated the daypart. Also, breakfast franchises are among the most rapid growth vehicles around thanks to the split model it offers operators. You can own and run an emerging breakfast brand, like Another Broken Egg, First Watch, Eggs Up, Snooze, etc., and then turn the lights on for your dinner-themed chain. Here’s a look at seven rising breakfast chains to watch.
Breakfast for delivery doesn’t quite hold the same prominence as lunch, and especially dinner and late night. But it’s an evolving reality nonetheless. Starbucks is, after all, delivering coffee. So is Dunkin’.
Here were the five top-ordered breakfast items.
1. BEC (bacon, egg & cheese) biscuit: 442 percent more popular
2. Mixed berry acai bowl: 209 percent more popular
3. Chicken & waffles: 167 percent more popular
4. Strawberry banana French toast: 155 percent more popular
5. Dutch pancake: 149 percent more popular
In terms of delivery, dessert is really an intriguing segment for full service. Quick-serves have some options, but they’re not nearly as robust. And sit-down chains probably have more room to upsell desserts for takeout and delivery than counter-service brands where customers are price conscious heading in. Also, the notion of a guest just ordering their favorite dessert but no other food? That’s a clear opportunity for independents and chains alike that have branded and well-known options.
Here are the top five gainers, a balanced mix of fan favorites with some classics tossed in.
1. Butter cake: 641 percent more popular
2. Chocolate shake: 530 percent more popular
3. Fruit crepe: 223 percent more popular
4. Caramel churro: 206 percent more popular
5. Vegan carrot cake: 144 percent more popular
Another delivery battleground. Quick-serves might have the edge just because of hours opened and what it takes to staff a full kitchen late night. But hey, ghost concepts might change this dynamic for full-service chains. Either way, late night has proven to be one of the higher indexed delivery segments for obvious reasons. People don’t want to leave their homes. They might be craving late-night snacking options (for whatever reason). That last point likely explains why carbs dominate Grubhub’s list.
Buffalo chicken empanada: 277 percent more popular
Brisket quesadilla: 200 percent more popular
Truffle parmesan fries: 157 percent more popular
Garlic & parmesan bread sticks: 132 percent more popular
Vegan burger: 128 percent more popular
Vegan orders rose 27 percent in popularity overall in 2019 compared to 2018. You can credit the lab-grown meat rush for that. In Grubhub’s data, the Impossible Burger saw a more than 200 percent rise in popularity this year.
Going back a few years, it would have been difficult to predict this kind of ranking, but you simply can’t deny how quickly plant-based meat is rising. The next question will be, is it a trial or repeat product? Only time will tell.
1. Impossible Burger
2. Black bean burger
4. Mushroom burger
The most vegan-friendly states (in ranking order):
1. New York
Least vegan-friendly states (in ranking order):
3. North Carolina
Just two years ago, poke bowls were the top order gainer for Grubhub. Trends gain steam and lose momentum, naturally. That’s the reality of foods that aren’t burgers, sandwiches, pizza, tacos, seafood, and steak. From Grubhub’s more than 450,000 orders per day on average, here’s the company’s take on what’s moving (and not moving).
Trends on the rise
Detox and milk alternatives are accelerating.
1. Celery juice
2. Oat Milk
3. Street corn
Celery juice and oat milk witnessed a 302 and 285 percent rise in popularity, respectively, in 2019.
Middle of the road
These aren’t rising in the ranks, but remain steady orders.
2. Avocado toast
Trends on the decline
Fermentation and hydration aren’t so buzzy anymore.
What was the biggest grub-hub single-item splurge this year? Osetra black caviar for $285.
Somebody also ordered more than 300 tacos for a Halloween party. The smallest? One customer picked a single hot sauce packet.
Washington, D.C. saw the biggest rise of late-night orders. California the most healthy foods. Oregon guests picked the most caffeinated drinks, and Texas took home the dessert crown.