- Forty percent of consumers said they most often order fast casual, while quick-service trailed in second at 32% and casual dining landed at 24%, according to Grubhub's Year in Food report. Grubhub analyzed millions of orders placed by over 16 million diners on its platform and surveyed consumers across the country on their preferences and eating habits.
- Plant-based food rose in popularity this year. The most ordered food was bean burritos, which increased 276% in popularity this year compared to 2017, while two cauliflower dishes made the top food list. Cauliflower rice bowls rose 155% in popularity, while buffalo cauliflower was 124% more popular compared to last year. Peanut butter acai bowls led the breakfast category with its popularity skyrocketing 350%.
- The chicken craze shows now signs of letting up either, with half of the top food list consisting of chicken: including sliders, burritos, sandwiches, chicken and waffles and parmesan chicken. All of these menu items rose well over 100% in popularity.
Despite competition from the likes of DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats, Grubhub still leads the delivery industry with 95,000 partners and $800 million to $900 million worth of orders every quarter, and fast casual restaurants have been on the up-and-up in numbers and popularity.
Most of the Grubhub's trending dishes, such as riced cauliflower, come from fast casual restaurants rather than quick-service spots. The latter category might benefit from pushing breakfast deliveries, as Grubhub's customers ordered bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches nearly 200% more this year and breakfast burritos 141% more. Dessert could also be a sweet spot for quick-service in the shape of brownies, cupcakes and cookies — notoriously easy add-ons for delivery orders, where consumers often pursue last-minute indulgences.
Interestingly, though, Grubhub's survey respondents prefer categories of food less often considered fast casual. Men choose burgers 31% of the time and barbeque 24% of the time; women opt for Chinese most often at 32% of the time, with Mexican and burgers around 25%. The spontaneity of both demographics also helps explain the fast-casual order boom, as consumers might swap pizza for pitas in one swipe.
Men and women aso order fast casual delivery at different rates, with 44% of women preferring the category compared to 36% of men. More than 40% of men prefer delivery from quick-service restaurants, nearly double the rate of women. A majority of men and women make spontaneous choices about the restaurant and menu selections, though only a third of women splurge on more expensive options after a long day compared to nearly 50% of men.
Why consumers choose delivery in the first place might also offer insight. More than 40% of survey respondents said they ordered take-out because they didn't feel like cooking, while 30% said they wanted to satisfy cravings. Nearly the same amount ordered take-out to save time and avoid cooking and cleaning.
Those sentiments combined with consumer desire to eat healthier foods — and the rise of plant-based foods ordered on Grubhub — once again leads more to fast casual, where Mediterranean has dominated growth. Consumers also are increasingly choosing exotic flavors, such as spicy miso ramen, lamb shawarma and baklava. These trends show no sign of slowing down, even though fast food restaurants have been investing heavily in delivery, both in marketing and money.
Correction: In a previous version of this article, the headline misidentified the users ordering from fast casual restaurants. Forty percent of consumers order fast casual most often.