Why is Delivery Demand for Restaurants Softening?

    Eighteen percent of past month delivery users report 'it's not worth it anymore.'

    Two boxes with fast food being carried by delivery person.
    Adobe Stock
    Don't be fooled by the notion that customers spend ages scrolling through endless options on delivery apps.

    Why is it that we angst over poor in-restaurant experiences, yet we continue to allow our customers to have unacceptable delivery experiences? The current delivery dilemma is perfectly predictable.

    Let's face it. As restaurant delivery evolves and matures, there's a lot of noise and confusion out there. Everyone seems to have an opinion, and it's hard to separate fact from fiction. That's why we delved deep into our consumer data to demystify and debunk some delivery myths.

    Hold on tight. Here goes.

    Let's start with where, and how the delivery path to purchase really works.

    Myth No. 1: Customers browse third-party apps to decide what they want to order.

    Fact: Brace yourself for this: nine out of 10 times, delivery occasions start with a known restaurant brand.

    Yes, you read that correctly.

    Remember those daily conversations with your co-workers, friends, and family? The never-ending back-and-forth of "What do you want to eat?" and "I don't know, what do you feel like?" Well, guess what? That's where it all begins. The decision-making process for dine-in, carryout, or delivery starts way before customers consider which restaurant to choose. 

    So, don't be fooled by the notion that customers spend ages scrolling through endless options on delivery apps. The truth is, the majority of the time, delivery customers have a specific restaurant already decided when they go online or to apps to place the order. 

    Not surprisingly, Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to scroll, but it’s only 3 out of 10 occasions, leaving the other seven out of 10 to start already knowing the restaurant.

    Lisa Miller chart on delivery.

    Ready to uncover more delivery secrets? 

    Myth No. 2: Convenience rules: Consumers have patience and forgiveness when it comes to delivery. 

    Fact: Frustrations are high and patience is low.

    Fifty percent of past 30-day quick-service delivery consumers report that delivery “prices have gone up too much.” And those pesky delivery fees? Forty-seven percent say that they have “gone up too much” as well (plus 12 points since April). By the time checkout is reached, consumers are often left in sticker shock, yet still they place the order. Yet, the lingering shock is not forgotten next time around. 

    With prices and fees soaring, the expectations and frustrations are as well. Recently, the experiences across the board just haven't been holding up. Slower than normal delivery times (30 percent, plus 5 points) and inaccurate orders (23 percent, plus 4 points) were other key problems that frustrate delivery customers. Those issues are catching up with operators as consumers tap out of using delivery altogether. Our recent data shows that 18 percent of past month delivery users report "It's not worth it anymore"—that is a VERY BIG number.

    Lisa Miller.

    Myth No. 3: Consumers Only Care About Receiving Their Food, Not Who Delivers It

    FACT: Consumers trust first-party restaurant delivery three times more than third-party platforms to get their food delivered accurately and on time.

    When it comes to trust, consumer put their trust in restaurant brands. Fifty-two percent (up 3 points since December 2022) of consumers prefer delivery directly from the restaurant, while only 16 percent of consumers prefer third-party platforms (down 5 points since December 2022). 

    As you might suspect, this preference varies by demographic, with tech-oriented younger generations (Gen Z and Millennials) more likely to trust third-party platforms like DoorDash, GrubHub, and Uber Eats than their older counterparts. Yet, even for Millennials, trust lies with 1st party delivery, even though drivers might be outsourced. 

    Which delivery service option do you trust the most to get your food delivered accurately and on time?

    Total U.S. 

    • 52 percent prefer restaurants 
    • 16 percent prefer third party 
    • 32 percent no preference



    • 45 percent prefer restaurants 
    • 35 percent prefer third party 
    • 25 percent no preference 


    Gen Z 

    • 36 percent prefer restaurants 
    • 46 percent prefer third party 
    • 18 percent no preference 


    Why it Matters: The So What? Now What? 

    Brands drive the delivery decision, not just the convenience. Yet, if we don't improve the delivery execution, the branded experience becomes commoditized and eventually will erode your brand equity. 

    We know it takes more than just a smooth user experience on your website or app to drive delivery loyalty. It's about being dependable, building trust, and going the extra mile to ensure every delivery experience is nothing short of amazing.

    Yet, are we spending more time on the former and not the latter? 

    If the dine-in experience data were this abysmal, I am confident that immediate action would be taken to improve the experience. So why is it taking so long for delivery to improve? I know what you are thinking - labor shortages, food costs, packaging costs ... oh, and yes, taking care of the dine-in and drive-thru customers. 

    Remember: Every detail of the delivery experience feeds into the next time consumers are making their ordering decision. Cold food? Overly long wait times? Unavailable items? Those things will leave a lasting bitter taste. It's time to fix the problems by deconstructing every piece in the process. Companies that invest in solving these customer pain points will win in the long run. 

    And we wonder why delivery demand is softening. Based on what is being delivered, it's perfectly predictable. 

    Survey data was collected the week ending May 25, 2023, by Lisa W. Miller & Associates and Prodege, LLC from a representative sample of 1,000 adults ages 18 years and older.