Restaurant digital orders up 145 percent from last year: NPD Group

Amid challenging 2020, off-premises performance may be silver lining

Digital orders might be the silver lining for the restaurant industry after a challenging 2020 due to the pandemic. Although US restaurant operators faced many challenges last year, there was significant progress in off-premises business, according to data from The NPD Group. Restaurant traffic increased from a low of (35) percent versus last year to a high of (11) percent in December.

Operators have found a way to pivot to off-premises, increasing their ability to produce food orders. In January of 2020, digital orders from restaurants were up a healthy 19 percent from last year; in December, they had improved to an impressive145-percent increase from the prior year.

“Digital orders for pick-up and all off-premises modes will be a growth engine for the U.S. restaurant industry moving forward,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of “Eating Patterns in America.”


Pickup orders represent the larger share of off-premises business for restaurants, and these sales were up 10 percent by December, compared to a year ago, after having seen just an uptick of 3 percent last January. Notably, pickup orders totaled 46 percent of off-premises orders by the end of 2020.

Likewise, delivery orders started 2020 with just a 1 percent increase and ended December up 137 from last year. Restaurant delivery has come a long way, but still represents just 11 percent of total share of off-premises orders, notes The NPD Group.

Drive-thru has become a popular and perceived-safe way for consumers to enjoy takeout. Its growth at the beginning of last year represented an 4-percent increase in orders from the prior year, but jumped to up 22 percent by December. Drive-thru finished out the year with a 44-percent share of off-premises orders.


Portalatin added, “Consumers, both new and former users, have now experienced the convenience of digital ordering, especially for carry-out and delivery, and will continue using these services long after the pandemic is over.”

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