Digital ordering was a lifeline for consumers and restaurants, particularly full-service restaurants, during the pandemic, reports The NPD Group. In the year ending March 2021, which covers a full year since the start of the pandemic, restaurant digital orders grew 124 percent compared to prior year. Digital orders for carry-out, which represented 62 percent of all digital orders, increased by 130 percent, and digital orders for delivery grew by 140 percent in the period compared to year ago and held 38 percent share of total restaurant digital orders, according to NPD’s ongoing foodservice market research, CREST.  

Digital ordering offered full service restaurants, which operated under varying degrees of mandated dine-in restrictions throughout the pandemic, much needed support. Prior to the pandemic full service restaurants represented 10 percent share of digital orders, as of the year ending March 31, the segment held 16 percent share and saw a 237 percent increase in digital orders during the period versus year ago. Quick service digital orders, which represented the remaining 84 percent share, also realized triple-digit growth of 111 percent, reports NPD.

Restaurant apps and websites are the most used channels for digital ordering, representing 62% of all digital orders. However, digital orders through third-party apps, like DoorDash or UberEats, grew by 207 percent in the period over year ago compared to the 98 percent 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.”  

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