The first half of 2020 was largely taken up with shelter-in-place mandates and quarantines, and takeout and delivery became the only way to get a restaurant meal. What did consumers order during those six months?
More than half a million orders were placed a day, according to Grubhub, and it wasn’t just about pizza, burgers and pasta. The third-party delivery company analyzed purchases from January 1 through June 20, comparing menu items to the same timeframe in 2019. While comfort foods were a top pick, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, a variety of dishes rose in popularity.
Plants were power players. Vegan orders increased by 23% compared to 2019, with plant-based burgers taking the biggest lead at 90%—making this item 291% more popular than in 2019. Plant-based orders in general went up by 135%.
Spicy chicken sandwiches rose by 299%. Popeyes created a lot of buzz around this item towards the end of 2019, and that momentum carried the category into 2020. The sandwich is an example of a prep that combines bold flavor and comfort, satisfying two consumer demands.
Acai bowls were on the rise, jumping 359% in a year. It seems that consumers gravitated toward healthier items at certain times of the day, particularly before the afternoon.
Mexican dishes also got a boost, as housebound consumers tried to spice up mealtimes. Chimichangas rose by 195%, beef burritos by 181% and potato tacos—a more adventurous choice in this category—by 169%. Sweet potatoes were usually the filling ingredient here, placing the taco squarely in the plant-forward trend.
There was also strong demand for beverage delivery, Grubhub reports. Cold brew orders increased by 232% and iced lattes by 261%. Consumers who chose to indulge with a drink and dessert rolled into one menu item gravitated toward vanilla shakes, up 273%. And taro milk tea, a creamy, sweet purple tea, was 168% more popular.