7 food delivery trends every restaurant brand should know right now

Todd Leach | May 26, 2020 Todd Leach 05/26/20

Over the past few months—as people across the country sheltered in place—third-party food delivery became a vital channel for the restaurant industry. And while restaurant dining rooms are now starting to reopen, it’s clear the pandemic has impacted consumer behavior for the long haul. In fact, Forbes estimates third-party orders will account for 70% of all food delivery sales in 2022.

The problem is, when it comes to delivery, brands continue to struggle with basic operational issues like inaccurate orders. In a previous blog, we discussed 3 steps restaurants can take to gain control of the third-party delivery experience. In today’s blog, we’ll explore 7 consumer behavior trends to help you understand how third-party delivery is impacting your brand and what to consider as you evolve your delivery strategy to keep up with customer expectations.


Trend #1: Third-party delivery awareness + usage continue to rise—but at a slower clip than previous years.

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Before COVID-19, adoption rates were leveling out—4 out of 5 customers were aware of third-party delivery, and nearly half of those who were aware used it in the past 3 months.

In March, when stay-at-home orders were instated across the country, traffic with third-party delivery vendors more than tripled to exceed 3M visits per day as new users discovered and explored delivery as a means to support their favorite restaurant brands.

On the heels of the pandemic—with brands rethinking their approach to delivery—the data is clear: this isn’t just a trend you can wait out, and the time to act is now.


Trend #2: The majority of third-party delivery users order from multiple providers.

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Each delivery app is unique, with different interfaces, delivery fees, and special promotions. Most customers aren’t loyal to just one—in fact, more than half use multiple apps. With the space being relatively new and quickly evolving, customers are still testing the waters with different providers.

Do your homework. Have you logged on to the top third-party apps to see how your brand is represented? Is it available at all? It’s important to understand how your brand appears through the eyes of the user.

You have to weigh your options. If you want to maximize the financial impact of working with a third-party delivery provider, an exclusive partnership may not be the right choice for your brand.


Trend #3: Almost half of users choose an app because it delivers from their favorite restaurant.

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Customers may be willing to split their orders across multiple providers, but loyalty to restaurant brands remains a top driver. Even prior to the pandemic, customers preferred more convenient options to dining in restaurants.

Yes, third-party delivery can hurt your brand and negatively affect business outcomes if you refuse to get in the game. But if you’re telling yourself it’s best to stay out, you have a lot to lose.

Whether it’s member rewards or promotions around popular items, make sure your loyalty strategy includes third-party delivery.


Trend #4: DoorDash has become customers’ app of choice across the U.S.

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Despite half of customers having multiple food delivery apps, when asked which app is their preferred, DoorDash is the new leader—beating out previous customer survey favorite, Uber Eats.

When we wrote our first third-party delivery report in 2017, DoorDash barely registered as a favorite in our research.  Now, less than 3 years later, they’re the provider customers prefer most. This proves how quickly trends can shift, how widespread the disruption really is, and underscores that only the most agile brands will stay on top. 

Frequently review your third-party partners to make sure you’re aligned with the providers who are willing to help you succeed by sharing experience data and helping bring your menu to more customers in your key markets.


Trend #5: 3 out of 4 customers will take their business elsewhere if your restaurant isn’t available for third-party delivery.

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At the start of this year, customers told us if their favorite restaurant wasn’t available on a third-party delivery app, 3 out of 4 would choose a different option rather than seek out other means of dining from their favorite.

Only 24% of customers will still find a way to choose you over more convenient options, with most of them opting to carry out or visit your drive-thru instead. Prior to the pandemic, 6% of those most loyal customers who still said they would choose you, even if you weren’t available in their app, would have made the effort to dine in with you. 

While playing it safe and staying out of the third-party delivery game may insulate you from some brand hazards, you’re leaving money on the table. The data shows customers crave convenience—and if you’re not offering third-party delivery, you’re competing with it. The best way for you to stay relevant is to provide your customers with more convenient ways to get food.


Trend #6: People who use third-party delivery visit restaurants more frequently.

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Is third-party delivery cannibalizing your business? The answer before the pandemic was “no” and that’s still true today. The idea that third-party delivery will cannibalize your business is a myth—and if you’re facing internal pushback on your decision to enter the space, let the numbers do the talking for you.

The existence of third-party delivery actually increases your chance that customers will come to your restaurant. By continuing to fine-tune your delivery strategy, you’ll also be driving customer loyalty and creating experiences that will bring them back.


Trend #7: Problems continue to occur at an alarming rate, with order accuracy being the primary issue.

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The high rate of problem occurrence with third-party delivery orders was alarming in 2017, and it’s only gotten worse—now more than 40% of customers are experiencing an issue. And when they do, it’s most often a problem with order accuracy.

On top of that, most customers will blame the restaurant for the mistake rather than the delivery provider—no matter who is actually at fault.

Make sure your customer care teams are equipped with the tools they need to identify + resolve issues unique to the third-party delivery experience.


Protect your brand in the wake of third-party delivery

With the current global health crisis necessitating further adoption and usage rates, it's more critical than ever to ensure your third-party delivery strategy is airtight. Because if you’re not taking the necessary precautions to safeguard your brand against potential pitfalls, you run the risk of losing control of your customer experience.

For more on how third-party delivery usage has changed amid COVID-19 and ways to optimize your delivery strategy, check out our on-demand webinar: Third-party delivery disruption: Take control + protect your brand.

Todd Leach | Chief Client Officer

Customer Experience Update