Whether it's families enjoying a meal together to celebrate Christmas or couples planning a Valentine's Day date night, national holidays are great opportunities for restaurants to drive sales.
In 2022, dining spending and travel returned to nearly pre-pandemic levels, as COVID-19 booster shots and less severe variants gave consumers confidence to go out again. At the same time, global challenges of inflation, supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and other lingering effects of the pandemic impacted consumers and restaurant operators alike.
Keep reading to find out how these trends impact consumers' dining behavior during the holidays.
What is the busiest day of the year for restaurant food delivery?
Consumers continued to focus on convenience in 2022. A survey by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) in December 2022 found that 77% of consumers were planning to cope with holiday demands by letting restaurants do some of their cooking. 57% of consumers planned to go out to eat at a restaurant, while 50% turned to takeout or delivery during the holidays. The two biggest reasons for this, the survey reported, were to support local businesses during the holidays and to reduce stress.
As more people ordered in, which holidays generated the most deliveries for restaurants? Here are the top ten busiest holidays for food delivery in 2022, based on the average number of DoorDash deliveries per open restaurant location:
New Year's Day
Comparing 2022 vs. 2021 busiest holidays for restaurant food delivery
To help restaurants understand consumers' evolving holiday food delivery preferences, let's compare the top 2022 rankings to the prior year's rankings. The below infographic shows the busiest holidays for restaurant food delivery in 2022 vs. 2021, based on the average number of DoorDash deliveries per open restaurant location.
Christmas remained the busiest day of the year for restaurant food delivery, followed by New Year's Day in the #2 spot, as families continue to seek convenience during the hectic winter holiday season. Other consumers may have opted for food delivery after experiencing travel delays and cancellations caused by a severe winter storm around Christmas Eve.
Mother's Day, a reliably busy day for restaurants for dine-in and delivery, appeared as the third busiest holiday in 2022 as more families gathered to celebrate this special occasion.
The biggest year-over-year-change in 2022 was Veterans Day, climbing nine spots from 2021 to reach #4. This could simply be because Veterans Day fell on a Friday in 2022, which, according to the 2022 Restaurant Online Ordering Trends report, is the most popular day of the week for food delivery on DoorDash.
New to the list is Easter, which jumped six spots from 2021 to #5 as spring holiday travel rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, and families chose the convenience of food delivery instead of cooking.
Interestingly, Valentine's Day slipped from #3 to #7 in 2022, perhaps as consumers became more comfortable going out to celebrate with their significant others.
In the #8 spot, Game Day remained a popular day for restaurant food delivery, as people gathered to watch one of the biggest sports events of the year.
Finally, another 2022 newcomer was Presidents' Day, which experienced the second biggest year-over-year ranking increase. Perhaps busy parents ordered delivery for their children who had the day off from school.
Planning for the busiest holidays for restaurants in 2023
Wondering how to prepare your team and your kitchen for these high order volume days? We put together a few tips to effectively manage your operations on the busiest days for restaurant food delivery on DoorDash.
Plan to staff up for these holidays. You may want to have an expo overseeing incoming delivery orders and firing them to the kitchen, or double-checking each order as they go out to Dashers so you avoid having missing or incorrect items.
Organize the kitchen. Include a "lane" specifically for takeout orders, with a kitchen display system (KDS) or tickets for pickup or delivery going directly there.
Try to stay open when you say you will (this is called uptime). If their kitchen gets too busy to fulfill delivery orders on time, DoorDash partners can update their store on DoorDash to "Busy", which signals longer wait times to potential customers. For especially busy times, you can hit "Pause" to temporarily stop accepting DoorDash orders. You can also edit your store hours for specific days or occasions.
Maintain an accurate menu. Need to 86 a menu item? No problem. Use DoorDash's menu manager tools to temporarily deactivate items on your DoorDash menu on your DoorDash Tablet, Business Manager App, or Merchant Portal.
For more tips, read our Learning Center articles How to Manage Orders on DoorDash, How to Avoid Avoidable Cancellation, and How to Add Store Essentials in the Merchant Portal.
Best practices for restaurant holiday marketing
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 across your channels. Customers eat with their eyes first, so serving up appetizing visual content on national holidays can be a surefire way to secure sales. The same NRA survey found that 66% of consumers planning to order takeout make their choice based on marketing emails from restaurants, with 65% using social media as a determining factor.
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?
Launch holiday-inspired incentives. Use DoorDash marketing tools to make your restaurant stand out on holidays. Promotions incentivize new, existing, and/or lapsed customers to order from your store with a discount, $0 delivery fee, or a free item. Sponsored Listings are ads that are featured in highly visible places in DoorDash, like the homepage and the top of relevant search results.
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)
Support your local community. Help customers make a positive impact in their community by offering a discount to anyone who donates to an organization of your choice, or by donating the profits from sales of a certain menu item.
Want more tips to drive food delivery sales on national holidays? Download the free 2023 Holiday Marketing Calendar and Toolkit to get a calendar of 270+ holidays and creative ways for restaurants to drive sales year-round. If you’re interested in partnering with DoorDash, sign up today. For DoorDash partners, log in to try DoorDash marketing tools with a $100 free marketing credit per store.*
*This is a limited-time offer for select merchants in the US valid until terminated by DoorDash; DoorDash may end this offer at any time. Eligible merchants will see the offer available in the Marketing tab in DoorDash's Merchant Portal. Stores that have previously participated in Sponsored Listings are not eligible for the credit. After the $100 credit is consumed per store, merchants will be automatically charged for the remainder of the campaigns per store. No cash value. Non-transferable.