Sweater weather. Pumpkin spice. A slight chill in the air on your morning walk. All of these signs are a pleasant reminder that fall is here. And as temperatures start to drop and consumers get ready to hibernate for winter, their food preferences and ordering habits change. Restaurants want to know: What are consumers craving in the fall?
Some of the answers are expected — for example, searches for "pumpkin" in the DoorDash app increased 20X from July to September 2022. But keep reading to find deeper insights on fall food trends, how to optimize your menu for autumn, and tips for restaurants to prepare for the fall season.
Methodology: We pulled DoorDash Marketplace data from last fall, September 22, 2021 – December 21, 2021, to help restaurants understand fall food trends and what consumers are ordering for delivery and pickup during this season. In some cases, we benchmarked the fall trends to summer trends (orders from June 21 – September 22, 2021) as well as fall trends from the prior year (September 22 – December 21, 2020).
Fastest-growing fall menu items
The following menu items experienced the biggest growth in orders from summer to fall in 2021:
The takeaway? As soon as that brisk autumn air makes an appearance, diners are ready for hearty meals that warm them up — and turn to Asian and Indian cuisines as their comfort foods.
Pho and ramen took the top spots, experiencing a 38% and 31% growth in orders respectively from summer to fall. Other soup varieties were close behind at 30%. Increases in orders for curry dishes, naan, and biryani (an Indian rice dish) demonstrated that cravings for Indian cuisine dominate this season. Orders for egg rolls grew 12% — perhaps as a side order to their noodle dishes and pad thai, which also appeared in the top ten. Finally, breakfast delivery continues to be an exciting opportunity for restaurants, as egg dishes took the last spot on the list.
If your restaurant doesn't currently offer these items, consider adding them to your fall menu. For restaurants who already serve these items, perhaps you can run a promotion to highlight these hearty comfort foods during this season. DoorDash partners can incentivize new and repeat customers to place orders and spend more with Promotions like a discount, no delivery fee, or a free item. In fact, using promotions increases merchants' DoorDash sales by an average of 25%.
Operators can also entice customers and boost delivery orders by adding high-quality menu photos and writing compelling menu descriptions that highlight the season's most popular items.
Restaurants should also note the menu items that experience the biggest decreases going into fall and adjust their menus accordingly:
Unsurprisingly, ice cream orders were down by 22% during the fall. Cheeseburgers decreased by 9%, followed by summer's top menu trend — poke bowls — which decreased by 6%.
Popular times for fall food delivery
Mid-morning orders (between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.) and early morning orders (between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.) grew by 15% and 8% respectively between summer and fall last year. As more consumers turn to delivery during the morning rush of back-to-school season, restaurants can capitalize on this trend by extending their early hours or staffing up the morning shift.
And operators can prepare for a shift in consumers' nighttime behavior in the autumn months. Deliveries went up 7% between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. going into fall, and late night orders (between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.) saw significant decreases during that time period. As warm summer nights cool off and the sun goes down earlier, consumers are opting to stay in and have an early dinner.
Busiest days for food delivery in fall
Holidays can be a boom or bust for restaurants throughout the year. While some holidays like Mother's Day and Valentine's Day may encourage people to celebrate with a night out, others like Thanksgiving and Christmas are typically spent cooking at home with family.
However, the weekend days leading up to or just after the major fall and winter holidays can be a surprisingly busy time for delivery orders. In 2021, Halloween was on a Sunday, so October food delivery orders were highest on Friday the 29th and Saturday the 30th as families prepped for trick-or-treating.
Similarly, consumers turn to the convenience of delivery in the days leading up to major holidays that require a lot of cooking. Below are the overall busiest days for food delivery during fall 2021:
Friday, December 17 (Friday before Christmas)
Saturday, November 13
Saturday, December 11
Friday, November 19 (Friday before Thanksgiving)
Friday, December 10
Restaurants can staff up for Fridays and Saturdays before and after major cooking holidays, and consider offering a holiday menu or running a Sponsored Listing in the weeks beforehand to drum up interest.
Boost fall restaurant sales with delivery
With these insights in mind, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your business goals this fall. Want more tips to increase food delivery sales throughout the year? Download the free 2023 Holiday Marketing Calendar and Toolkit to get a calendar of 270+ holidays and creative ways for restaurants to boost revenue year-round.
Wondering what consumers are craving during the summer months? Read our Summer Food Trends report.
If you’re interested in partnering with DoorDash to offer delivery, pickup, and online ordering to your customers this fall, sign up today.