Our most rapid read on food and beverage behavior is CREST®
Performance Alerts
, which leverage multiple data assets to provide weekly transactions for 70 restaurant chains, including quick service, midscale and casual dining restaurants. For the week ending March 15, total transactions declined 8% versus year ago. This most recent week of data reflect performance prior to restaurant dine-in closures mandated in states throughout the country. The results for week ending March 22 will reflect the restaurant on-premise closures.

In the meantime, here are some of the things I’m watching:

Delivery Capacity – Prior to the outbreak only 3.4% of restaurant orders were for delivery and 16% of consumers had ordered edible groceries for delivery in the past 30 days. How fast are restaurants and food retailers
prepared to increase delivery drivers and the systems needed to facilitate
frictionless delivery
Will a change in behavior result in a “new
normal” level of delivery going forward?

The Pizza Business – Before the outbreak, more than half of delivery orders were from a pizza restaurant, and such orders in 2019 declined 3%. The growth in delivery was being driven by non-pizza restaurants whose delivery traffic was up 18% year-over-year.  Given the larger capacity of established
pizza delivery concepts, are they poised for a rebound?

Third Party Platforms
Among non-pizza restaurant delivery orders, 80% were being ordered from a third party delivery providers, such as DoorDash, Grubhub, or Uber Eats. Growth in non-pizza orders through these platforms in 2019 was +40% over year ago.  Many of these platforms have announced changes to their fee structures for restaurants and consumers to help transition business to off-premise.

Will we see digital ordering and third party delivery platforms for restaurant orders accelerate above the existing strong growth rates?  Will we see acceleration in online edible grocery shopping, and will grocery delivery or a click and collect model be preferred? My experience and anecdotal observations say yes, and we will likely retain these behaviors as a new normal in frictionless food acquisition sets in, but we need to have the hard data in hand to know for certain. The weeks and months to come will tell the real story.