In South Korea, throughout February and March, the period that was heavily influenced by the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of people eating out decreased, causing sharp declines in sales. On-premise dining decreased an astonishing 26 percent. While this wasn’t good news for the restaurant industry, there was a silver lining: the delivery market showed a noticeable increase (25.5 percent), indicating that the demand for on-premise had shifted to delivery.

What struck me as I looked through the CREST® data in South Korea was the shift in consumption habits, which closely mirror what we’re seeing in other countries. By category, common delivery menus such as chicken and pizza have not been affected by the pandemic, but rather saw traffic increases. Declines were also low in categories such as Korea Quick Bite, and Bakery, where takeout is easy, or it’s easy to switch to delivery.

By demographic, families were the segment that reacted the most to COVID-19, seeing the largest decline in traffic. Looking at the age group by channel, those in their 40s and 50s showed the most growth for delivery, which grew 42 percent. Recently, it has been noted that this age group has started to adopt delivery apps, which increased significantly due to the pandemic.

As the activities outside of the home decreased due to COVID-19, the traffic of the foodservice industry decreased more on weekends than on weekdays. However, traffic of university students eating out at weekend has steadily increased during the period of February-March compared to the previous year, likely due to consumers in this age group not being as concerned about COVID-19 than those in older age groups.

Without a doubt, we will continue to see strong growth in delivery sales. What will be interesting to watch will be how foodservice providers evolve to better compete for both on and off-premise diners, and how many of these shifting models will “stick” post-COVID-19.