Consumer demand drives growth of digital orders, carry-out,
and other off-premise services

Toronto, February 8, 2021 — Although mandated dine-in restrictions throughout the pandemic netted a double-digit decline in visits to Canadian restaurants in 2020 compared to prior year, consumer demand for restaurant meals and the industry’s ability to serve the demand with a host of off-premise services, like digital ordering and delivery, helped to buoy the industry last year, reports The NPD Group.  All off-premise order modes grew by varying degrees in 2020, while on-premise/dine-in orders declined by double-digits in 2020, according to NPD’s
continuous tracking of Canada’s foodservice industry trends

“The foodservice trends we saw as 2020 came to a close were established many months earlier,” says  Vince Sgabellone, NPD
foodservice industry analyst
. “Pivotal among these trends is the continued importance of off-premise order modes. Canadians continued to support restaurants by dining-out at home. Off-premise orders represented about 80% of all restaurant visits by the end of last year.”

Key among the restaurant services consumers tapped into in 2020 was digital ordering. Foodservice digital orders, which were growing prior to the pandemic, experienced triple-digit growth in 2020 ending the year with a 142% increase in orders in December compared to year ago. The off-premise modes of carry-out and delivery recorded their fastest growth rates last year. Carry-out orders, which represents the largest share of off-premise orders, increased by +25% and delivery jumped by +98% in December compared to year ago. Drive-thru, an ordering mode that was already well-developed at quick service restaurant chains when the pandemic hit, increased orders by +45% in December versus year ago.          

Total visits, physical and virtual, to Canadian restaurants and other foodservice outlets were down -16% in December versus year ago but quick service restaurants, whose business model has always been based on providing quick and portable meals, fared better with a -11% decline in visits. The full-service restaurant channel, most impacted by the dine-in restrictions, struggled to take advantage of the off-premise boom and realized a -37% loss in traffic in December compared to year ago, reports NPD.

“The Canadian restaurant industry is relieved to be putting 2020 in the rearview mirror, but it has experienced a decade of evolution condensed into several months,” says Sgabellone. “The pandemic has forced the evolution in ways that hadn’t been thought of before. Recovery won’t happen overnight, but the industry will recover with lessons learned and new ways of thinking already in place.”