Online Ordering Habits: What Your Restaurant Needs to Know

Optimize your online ordering platform to meet customers’ evolving needs and deliver a seamless off-premise dining experience.

8 min read
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As restaurateurs look ahead after a challenging year, off-premise dining and third-party delivery are an essential part of providing modern diners the convenient, fulfilling experiences they crave. Being able to order online is a key part of those offerings. 

A new report by DoorDash, 2021 Restaurant Online Ordering Trends, takes an in-depth look at how online ordering preferences and dining trends have transformed this year. This report draws from a survey of 1,525 customers across the U.S. from April 2021 to reveal how customers are eating now and what your restaurant can do to prepare for their next off-premise meal. 

Read on for an overview of how your customers' needs are evolving — and learn how to get ahead of their preferences to consistently deliver a seamless off-premise dining experience. Want to know the full story? Dive into the data further with more detailed customer insights by downloading the free full report

Consumers crave an easy, appetizing online ordering experience

Now more than ever, your customers are hungry for a convenient online ordering experience. In an April 2021 survey from the report, 79% of people said they ordered pickup at least twice in the past month, and 56% of people had also ordered delivery at least twice in the past month.

With off-premise orders here to stay, it's important that you're aware of your customers' online ordering habits — so you can better meet their needs. But what exactly are those needs? Above all — an easy, intuitive platform for ordering food online. Your website should be responsive, easy to navigate, and well-designed, since 94% of first brand impressions are design-related. A mobile-friendly format is particularly important as well, considering food service transactions initiated via mobile app went up from 6% to 15% between 2019 and 2020

Some other key considerations for your online ordering website include appetizing visual elements and unique brand customization. When potential customers visit your website, they should be able to recognize your delicious food and branding immediately. In fact, people are more likely to retain information when it's paired with compelling images. High-quality images of the dishes you serve set you apart from competitors and inspire website visitors to try your delicious offerings. According to DoorDash data, high-quality menu photography can increase your delivery volume by 15%. Learn more in our guide to taking your own menu photos.

Interested in setting up your own online ordering system? With DoorDash Storefront, you can easily add delivery and pickup ordering to your current website, commission-free. Storefront helps restaurants enhance their online experience and generate more sales — so you can keep satisfying more customers. 

On-demand delivery keeps customers satisfied

The food delivery industry reached new heights during the pandemic, and this upward trend is only continuing. Prior to the pandemic, food delivery made up 10% of the restaurant industry's market share. Now, that figure is at 14% — and is projected to keep growing. They key to optimizing your food delivery options? Understanding what your customers want and optimizing your menu for online ordering and delivery.

According to the report, 70% of customers choose delivery because it's more convenient for them. Using delivery services, customers can quickly access high-quality food — without having to leave the comfort of their own home. What's more, offering delivery through a third-party platform is a great way for restaurants to add a new revenue stream without steep overhead costs. 

DoorDash partnership plans allow your business to be featured on the DoorDash app and website, and are designed to support your restaurant's advertising and marketing needs. There are three tiers of partnership plans, each with different price points based on the level of marketing support you need. Merchants can choose from commission rates of 15%, 25%, or 30% (based on varying levels of built-in marketing), and get 6% commission on pickup orders across all plans. Additionally, each plan includes zero credit card processing fees on DoorDash app orders, zero activation fees, as well as access to Storefront, which enables commission-free delivery and pickup ordering from your own website. Learn more about which DoorDash pricing and products are best for your business by taking this short quiz

Extend your reach even further with DoorDash's membership program, DashPass, to access loyal, high-value customers who save an average of $4-5 per order with $0 delivery fees and reduced service fees on all eligible orders. Because DashPass customers order more often, you'll likely get more orders and repeat customers.

Pickup prevails: customers still love takeout 

Last but certainly not least, the 2021 Online Ordering Trends report reveals that pickup continues to prevail in the evolving restaurant landscape. While food delivery is extremely convenient, the study showed that when customers choose pickup over delivery, it's usually because they live close to the restaurant or feel it will be faster than delivery. 

While dine-in and delivery sales often account for a large portion of your restaurant's revenue, don't underestimate the power of pickup — 76% of customers ordered pickup from their favorite restaurant 3+ times in the past year. This option is a useful way to complement your dine-in and delivery offerings. With DoorDash's partnership plans, pickup commissions are now only 6% to ensure hard-earned profits go back into the pockets of local businesses. 

Learn more about what types of food customers are picking up most frequently in the full report — and be sure to plan your menu accordingly. Strike a balance between on- and off-premise orders, and don't forget to prioritize pickup alongside other options. 

Online ordering is here to stay 

Although 2020 was a challenging year for the restaurant industry, restaurateurs and operators across the country developed innovative ways to keep customers satisfied and adapt with user-friendly online ordering systems and efficient pickup and delivery services. 

Research from the report shows that online ordering through a restaurant's own website or app is the #1 way customers order delivery or pickup — and 50% of customers choose a restaurant's online ordering option over the phone for its ease of use. As restaurants continue to adapt in the post-pandemic era, be prepared by understanding your customers' wants and making their lives a little easier. 

Optimize your online ordering platform to give customers an easy, accessible route to ordering your delicious food and turn them into repeat customers — while simultaneously increasing your sales, boosting brand awareness, and expanding your reach. 

Craving more in-depth insights on the evolving restaurant landscape and consumers' online ordering trends? Download the 28-page 2021 Restaurant Online Ordering Trends report to get ahead of your customers' needs and strengthen your digital dining experience. Then, sign up for DoorDash or Storefront to meet your customers where they are.


Ali Cottong

Ali Cottong


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