To-Go Orders Lose Ground to Delivery, Drive-Thru

Restaurant visits fell in the first quarter, and all dayparts were either flat or lower.

April 29, 2022

QSR McDonalds Drive Thru Line

CHICAGO—Delivery at restaurants increased by a whopping 116%, and drive-thru grew by 20% from February 2020 to February 2022, reports The NPD Group. Digital and non-digital carryout restaurant orders declined by 2% during the same period.

Digital ordering, which grew by 117% in the two years, contributed to the delivery and drive-thru growth. Although digital carryout orders doubled through the pandemic, these gains were offset by a double-digit decline in non-digital pickup orders that account for the bulk of pickup orders.

In the fiscal year ended February 2022, 76% of carryout business was made up of non-digital orders, and these orders declined by 16% compared with the prior year. Non-digital drive-thru orders increased by 20% in the same period, and non-digital delivery, which represents 25% of delivery orders, increased by 25%.

“Several factors have encouraged consumers to move away from ordering carryout. The convenience of drive-thrus, delivery and mobile ordering, in addition to dining room closures, have influenced consumers’ willingness to get out of their car, walk into a restaurant, and order to-go,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor. “Convenience rules and the more convenient options will win.”

Additionally, NPD reports that online and physical restaurant visits declined by 2% in the first quarter of 2022 versus a year ago and increased by 1% from the first calendar quarter of 2020 when the pandemic began. Consumer restaurant spending, which reflects higher costs opposed to increased visits, was up 4% in the quarter compared with the same quarter a year ago when spending rose by 7%.

Online and physical visits to quick-service restaurants (QSRs) declined by 2% in the first quarter of 2022 compared with a 6% increase in traffic in the same quarter last year. Consumer spending at QSRs grew by 2% compared with the first three months of 2021, when spending increased by 14%.

Full-service restaurant (FSR) traffic increased by 2% compared with a year ago when visits declined by 7%. FSR spending was up 10% versus the same quarter a year ago when spending fell by 6%.

Against traffic gains in the first quarter of 2021, first-quarter 2022 visits at all restaurant dayparts were flat or lower.

Morning meal and dinner traffic were flat in this year’s first quarter compared with a year ago when the dayparts increased by 4% and 2%, respectively. Lunch visits, which have been hampered by fewer employees returning to worksites, declined by 4% last quarter compared with a 1% increase in the 2021 first quarter. Afternoon snack traffic declined by 2% against a 12% gain in the same quarter a year ago.