Australia’s in-car dining is a trend that has taken off

SYDNEY, Australia, March 24, 2021 – It would seem the flickering candle and crisp white tablecloth of our favourite restaurants has given way to an interior car light and eating on our laps. According to data from The NPD Group, the number of ‘auto-diners’, those buying meals for the purpose of consuming them in their car, increased by 24% for chain-based operators and a 19% increase in spend for the entire foodservice industry.

The proliferation of drive-thru fast-food chains has contributed to our vehicles becoming not only a means of transportation but also a dining room on wheels. Thanks in part to government restrictions and customer apprehension to dining in during the pandemic, the use of drive-thru increased 39% overall in Q4 2020.

Savvy restauranters, however, have taken note and are following suit, giving customers the ability to “dine in” without having to leave the safety and comfort of their cars. While an increase in drive-thru purchases from foodservice chains already set up for drive-thru was to be expected, there was an astonishing 85% increase in drive-thru traffic for independent venues. It’s clear that the independents have seen the opportunity for drive-thru and have adapted their businesses to take advantage of the extra revenue stream.

“This is a good compromise for customers and restaurants alike in Australia,” said Gimantha Jayasinghe, Senior Vice President and Deputy Managing Director Asia Pacific at The NPD Group. “What many of us have learned during the pandemic is that a lot of the food at more upscale restaurants doesn’t travel very well. In order for restaurants to better compete with fast food dining fare, many chefs have come to realise the benefits of pivoting to simpler menu items as opposed to their signature dishes. This is a win-win solution for both restaurants and consumers. Our car is a safe space; a protected, private place where we can just sit, uninterrupted and enjoy our meal.”

In the past, drive-thru purchases weren’t just for eating in the car; they were often associated with taking the meals away and eating them at home or at work. Whilst this is still a popular option, the appeal of being able to drive somewhere and choose the dining destination is also a factor.  Some segments experienced greater growth than others, notably in-car dining increased by 56% in spend for those dining solo during a weekday lunchtime.

NPD data shows that two of the main motivators for using the car to purchase food was to access food variety (92%) and to treat ourselves (27%). Mr Jaysinghe comments, “This makes sense as travelling by car obviously widens the field for food options, but another motivation that came through strongly in the data was treating oneself. To me, that indicates people are using mealtimes to get out of the house if they are working from home and as a way of getting some quality ‘me time’ in a safe environment.”

*Data source: The NPD Group/ CREST AU, Q4 2020

Press Contact

David Riley

+1 (917) 543 5465