Whether it's families enjoying a meal together to celebrate Mother's Day or Halloween party goers seeking a savory nightcap, national holidays are great opportunities for restaurants to drive sales.
But as COVID-19's shelter-in-place orders took hold last year, many people turned to food delivery to celebrate the holidays at home. In 2020, 1.2 billion people worldwide used online food delivery, and the global online food delivery industry generated over $136 billion in revenue.
Food delivery became a way for people to safely support local restaurants when dine-in wasn't available. 65% of DoorDash customers tried a restaurant they wouldn't have otherwise tried because it was listed on DoorDash, and 3 out of 4 restaurants agree that DoorDash has allowed them to reach new customers.
2020's busiest holidays for food delivery
Ever resilient, people found new ways to celebrate the holidays during the pandemic — from intimate family dinners to virtual parties to online mixology classes. These celebrations often included food delivery as a convenient, stress-free alternative to cooking.
As more people ordered in, which holidays generated the most deliveries for restaurants? Here are the top ten busiest holidays for food delivery in 2020, based on the average number of DoorDash deliveries per restaurant location:
New Year's Eve
Indigenous Peoples' Day
Day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday)
Comparing 2020 vs. 2019 holiday food delivery
To help restaurants understand the impact of COVID-19 on consumers' holiday food delivery preferences, let's compare the top 2020 rankings to the prior year. The below infographic shows the busiest holidays for food delivery in 2020 vs. 2019, again based on the average number of DoorDash deliveries per restaurant location.
In both 2019 and 2020, Mother's Day was the number one holiday for food delivery, revealing that families turn to delivery to show appreciation for their moms.
The big party holidays like New Year's Eve, the day before Thanksgiving, and Halloween saw the biggest year-over-year ranking increases as revelers ordered delivery in 2020 instead of going out.
Federal holidays like Veteran's Day, Labor Day, and Indigenous Peoples' Day saw increased rankings as people opted out of traveling for long weekend getaways and instead relaxed at home with food delivery.
Father's Day and Memorial Day, typically busy holidays for food delivery, saw a bit of a dip in the 2020 rankings — but perhaps just because the other holidays' delivery volume increased so significantly.
As 2020 Black Friday online sales increased by 21.6% year-over-year to a whopping $9 billion, busy consumers ordered food delivery on the Day after Thanksgiving to survive their holiday shopping sprees. (And as most families didn't host large Thanksgiving gatherings in 2020, perhaps people turned to delivery to replace traditional leftovers).
What holiday food delivery trends mean for restaurants
As health experts advise people to keep staying home, restaurants can expect these food delivery trends to continue in 2021. By understanding which national holidays are likely to be the busiest for food delivery, operators can build a restaurant marketing strategy that engages guests and drives revenue.
Here are a few tips for restaurants to make the most of the busiest holidays for food delivery:
Share photos of festive menu items. Customers eat with their eyes first — and nearly 50% of diners have tried a restaurant after seeing a social media post. Because of this, serving up appetizing visual content on national holidays can be a surefire way to secure sales.
Host a giveaway. Known for boosting social media engagement, contests are a creative, cost-effective way to tap into customers' competitive nature and inspire interaction with your brand on national holidays. Who wouldn't want to win a coupon for your restaurant — or a free dessert on their next delivery order?
Offer holiday-inspired discounts. Launch promotions to make your restaurant stand out on national holidays. For example, you can complement sugar highs with a free savory appetizer on Halloween — or Mother's Day is the perfect opportunity for a BOGO promo.
Promote holiday campaigns well in advance. Give guests many opportunities and reminders to make plans to dine with you (instead of discovering they'd missed out a day too late). These free Canva food templates are perfect for posting on social media — and catching followers' eyes on special occasions.
Want more tips to drive food delivery sales on national holidays? Download the free 2021 Restaurant Marketing Calendar and Toolkit to get a calendar of 270+ holidays and creative ways for restaurants to drive sales year-round.