Digital ordering and off-premises
services shine through the clouds and will drive future industry growth

Chicago, January 27, 2021 — Throughout one of the most challenging years for U.S. restaurants the industry demonstrated its resiliency against a variety of headwinds throughout 2020 by rising from a -35%  traffic decline in April to a -11% visit decrease in December compared to year ago, reports The NPD GroupAlthough mandated
dine-in restrictions have held back all restaurant segments, particularly full
service, consumer demand for restaurant meals and the ability to serve the demand
with a host of off-premises services, like digital ordering, delivery,
drive-thru, and carry-out, are the silver linings that enable the industry to

Restaurant digital orders, which were growing prior to the pandemic, increased by +19% in January of last year to +145% in December compared to year ago, according to NPD’s daily tracking of consumers’ use of restaurants and other foodservice outlets. Like digital ordering, carry-out, delivery, and drive-thru were also growing before the pandemic. Carry-out, which represents the largest share of off-premises modes, increased orders by +3% in January 2020 and by +10% in December versus year ago. Carry-out ended 2020 holding 46% of off-premises order share. Delivery, which was receiving a lot of attention before the pandemic even though carry-out and drive-thru have eight times more order volume, began 2020 with orders up by +1% and ended the year with a triple-digit gain of +137% in orders compared to year ago. Even with the triple-digit gain in orders, delivery still holds the smallest off-premises order share at 11%. Drive-thru, an ordering mode that was already well-developed at quick service restaurant chains when the pandemic hit, increased orders in 2020 from +4% in January to +22% in December versus year ago and ended the year with a 44% share of off-premises orders.        

“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
. “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.”