Shifts in Consumer Dining Behavior During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Dining habits in the U.S. have undoubtedly changed as most of the country stays home due to the coronavirus pandemic. We took a look at Quantcast’s unique data to uncover changes in dining behavior among consumers as they adapt to this new lifestyle. Here’s what we found: 

Online food ordering has spiked despite consumers’ initial hesitations. 

As expected, online quick service restaurant (QSR) orders have grown significantly as a result of consumers sheltering-in-place across the country. Pizza chains stand out in particular as having large increases in orders compared to earlier in the year. Interestingly however, QSR and pizza chains both saw an initial drop in volume on March 12, one day after the World Health Organization characterized the outbreak as a global pandemic. While consumers may have had hesitations early on about bringing outside food into their homes, a shift in mindset occurred within days and volume has steadily increased since. For the foreseeable future, food delivery services will be critical in attracting customers and staying afloat for casual and fine dining restaurants.

New customer segments emerge as pick-up and delivery become ubiquitous

We have also seen some notable demographic shifts since mid-February. As college dining halls across the country began to close, restaurants started seeing an uptick in site visits within the 18-20 year old demographic. We also started to see the same uptick in restaurant site traffic visits for people ages 60+. This is likely due to the fact that older demographics were considered “at risk” and advised to shelter in place.

Another notable shift we’ve observed is an uptick in site visits from a more affluent (HHI $150K+) demographic and consumers with advanced educations. As more cities restrict human to human contact and shelter in place, there appears to be a greater willingness among these groups to consider QSR than before the pandemic began.

Preference for food delivery brands varies for each generation

When we compare affinity data for four delivery services – Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub, and Postmates – we see that each generation has a different delivery service preference. Gen Z leans towards Uber Eats. Conversely, older generations have the highest affinity with Postmates. Among all generations, we see that Millennials remain the predominant users of delivery apps. We anticipate this will continue to shift as younger and older audiences become more frequent customers of delivery services. 

Device traffic trends show a surprising shift to desktop ordering

We’ve noticed a significant shift in device preference since mid-March. When we compared web traffic for restaurant sites before and after the outbreak, more than half of site visitors are now coming from desktop and laptops vs. mobile. While many are still ordering through mobile apps, many are browsing the web, exploring new restaurant options and placing orders on their laptops.

As ordering food on the web shifts from mobile to desktop, marketers have a unique opportunity to grow market share by reaching targeted audiences at scale, using creative messaging that highlights delivery and take-out options.

Having the ability to identify and make sense of rapidly shifting consumer behavior, discover and target new audiences and quickly react with creative messaging, will ensure restaurants and delivery services weather the pandemic.

We’re going to look at how consumer behavior continues to change over time during this crisis. Be sure to check back here for updates in the coming weeks.

For more information on how Quantcast can help your brand understand online consumer behavior in real-time, get in touch here.