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Winter Food Trends: How Restaurants Can Prepare for the Holiday Season

Learn which winter menu items are most popular, how consumer dining behavior shifts during this season, and how restaurants can make the most of the holidays.

11 min read
12/13/2022
Mx Winter Food Trends blog hero

Snow days. Cozy sweaters. Warm beverages. As the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, consumers' food preferences and restaurant ordering habits change. This season brings an opportunity for restaurants to introduce creative winter menu ideas as diners seek comfort and convenience. 

Keep reading to find insights on winter food trends, how to optimize your menu for the colder months, and tips for restaurants to prepare for the holiday season. 

Methodology: We pulled DoorDash Marketplace data from last winter (December 21, 2021 — March 20, 2022) to help restaurants understand winter food trends and what consumers are ordering for delivery and pickup during this season. In some cases, we compared winter trends to summer trends (orders from June 21 – September 22, 2021).

Fastest-growing winter menu items 

Below are the menu items that experienced the most growth in orders on DoorDash from summer 2021 to winter 2021-2022. 

  1. Pho

  2. Soup

  3. Ramen

  4. Donuts

  5. Cinnamon rolls

  6. Egg rolls

  7. Biryani

  8. Noodle dishes

  9. Rice dishes

  10. Naan

It's no surprise that consumers turn to comfort food during the cold winter months — but the definition of comfort food takes on many different meanings for diners. Pho was the fastest-growing menu item, experiencing 42% growth in orders from summer to winter. Other soup varieties grew by 40%, followed by ramen (39%), and the traditional Indian dish Biryani, which experienced 25% growth. Restaurant operators should note that orders for these cold weather favorites start trending upwards in the fall

And perhaps to complement these Asian and Indian dishes, consumers also ordered 26% more egg rolls, and 23% more noodle dishes in winter. 

Diners also indulge their sweet tooth during winter. Cinnamon roll orders grew by 35%, and donuts experienced a 26% growth from summer to winter. Restaurants should consider adding these low-cost, high-profit treats to their winter menu. 

Hot dogs are having a moment this year, often served as a gourmet item with all sorts of creative fixings. Orders for this dish grew by 29% from summer to winter. 

Bagels took the #9 spot, experiencing 25% growth from summer to winter, highlighting the opportunity for restaurants to capitalize on offering breakfast delivery. 

Wondering which items are most popular on your own delivery menu? You can view sales data in the DoorDash Merchant Portal and optimize your existing delivery menu to promote best-sellers and identify not-so-popular items that may need a boost. 

Top times of day for deliveries during winter 

Here are the top times of day by DoorDash sales during winter 2021-2022.

Mx Winter food trends times of day bar chart

The most popular times for ordering on DoorDash during the winter months don’t come as a surprise — corresponding with lunch and dinner. 

That said, breakfast delivery represents a major opportunity for restaurants in winter, as more consumers opt for delivery during the morning rush of getting ready for work and school. From summer to winter, orders from 5 to 8 a.m. grew 22% and from 8 to 11 a.m. grew 23%. 

Restaurants can capitalize on this trend by extending their early hours or staffing up the morning shift. And since consumers crave donuts and cinnamon rolls in winter, add these indulgences to your breakfast menu to capture more orders. 

Busiest days during the holiday season

Following are the busiest days for DoorDash orders during winter 2021-2022. To capture accurate holiday insights, this data in this section is adjusted for stores open during this time period (i.e., stores that had at least $50 in sales on the given day). 

  1. Saturday, December 25, 2021 (Christmas)

  2. Saturday, January 1, 2022 (New Year's Day)

  3. Friday, December 31, 2021 (New Year's Eve) 

  4. Sunday, February 27, 2022

  5. Monday, February 14, 2022 (Valentine's Day)

  6. Friday, January 7, 2022

  7. Wednesday, January 2, 2022 (day after New Year's) 

  8. Sunday, January 30, 2022

  9. Friday, February 25, 2022

  10. Friday, January 21, 2022

While certain holidays are dependably busy for restaurants, the COVID-19 Omicron surge caused even more consumers to stay in and order delivery. Christmas was the top day for delivery and pickup sales during the winter, and New Year's Day and New Year's Eve took the #2 and #3 spots, respectively. Operators know that Valentine's Day, which took the #5 spot, is busy for both dine-in and delivery customers.  

Because there are fewer restaurants open, holidays can be a great way to capture sales and new customers. In fact, restaurants open on Christmas have over 60% more daily sales than a normal day in November and December.

Top menu items on Thanksgiving

Here are the most ordered menu items on Thanksgiving 2021: 

  1. Chicken dishes (e.g., Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, and General Tso's Chicken) 

  2. Sandwiches

  3. Vegetables

  4. Meat 

  5. Dessert 

  6. Dumplings

  7. Pizza 

  8. Cake 

  9. Noodle Dishes

  10. Chicken Wings 

While some Thanksgiving dishes made it on the list, consumers did not feel confined by tradition — with dumplings (#6), noodle dishes (#9), and even pizza (#7) appearing in the top ten. Many diners also ordered dessert on Thanksgiving, perhaps complementing homemade dishes with restaurant-made pies to save time and stress. 

Top Christmas menu items by region

Here are the top menu items ordered on DoorDash on Christmas 2021 by U.S. region: 

winter menu regions graph

While many restaurants are closed on major holidays, diners across the country enjoyed Asian dishes on Christmas, including dumplings, noodles, rice, and even sushi rolls. Many of the top items overlapped across regions — chicken dishes were #1 and dumplings were #2 everywhere — but there were a few unique variations in each list. 

Diners celebrated Christmas with chicken wings in the South (#7) and Northeast (#10) — perhaps an especially popular dish for those in the Buffalo, NY area. Pizza made it to the list of every region except, surprisingly, the Northeast — where New Yorkers can get their pizza fix any day of the year. 

Crab rangoon appeared only in the top ten for the Midwest, while Western states were the only ones interested in tacos or dessert on Christmas. 

If your restaurant is staying open on Christmas, consider adding a few of your region's top items to your holiday menu. 

Alcohol delivery trends in winter

Alcohol delivery became more popular during the pandemic, with diners getting into the habit of ordering alcohol to-go from restaurants, liquor stores, or retailers. The DoorDash 2023 Alcohol Online Ordering Trends Report found that 69% of consumers report ordering alcohol online at least monthly, and alcohol orders for pickup and delivery on DoorDash doubled from 2021 to 2022.

Operators can add alcohol to their delivery menus to increase ticket sizes and boost profit margins. Consider offering to-go cocktails, or simply a bottle of wine or six-pack of beer. And rest assured that DoorDash holds the required permits for compliant alcohol delivery where applicable.

The top alcohol items ordered on DoorDash from restaurants during winter 2021-2022 are below. Note that unlike most other data in this article, this list includes enterprise sales (i.e., sales from major chain restaurants). 

  1. Margarita

  2. Swirl (sparkling alcoholic beverage)

  3. Mimosa

  4. Sapporo (Japanese beer)

  5. Bloody Mary

  6. Michelada

The top alcohol items ordered on DoorDash from restaurants, convenience stores, and grocery stores during winter 2021-2022 are below. Note that unlike most other data in this article, this list includes enterprise sales (i.e., sales from major chain restaurants and stores).

  1. Tito's Handmade Vodka

  2. Fireball Cinnamon Whisky 

  3. Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

  4. La Marca Prosecco

  5. Margaritas

  6. Apothic Red

  7. Four Loko Sour Apple 

  8. Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 

  9. New Amsterdam Vodka

  10. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

Winter food trends for restaurants

By staying on top of the latest winter food trends, restaurants can turn the colder months into a boon for their business. But when planning a seasonal or holiday marketing campaign, keep these tips in mind: 

  • Promote well in advance. Start promoting at least a month ahead of time, if possible. This way, diners can make plans to dine with you (instead of discovering they’d missed out a day too late). 

  • Give customers a sneak peek. Share your holiday menu across social platforms, featuring high-quality food photos — and encouraging followers to tag friends who would enjoy each dish!

  • Offer promotions and incentives. For example, a diner who refers three parties to book a table at your restaurant could earn a free entrée of their choice.

  • Create a new buzzworthy menu item. Cook up a brand new dish or a spin on one of your existing dishes that customers can’t ignore — like a limited edition dessert or an eye-catching cocktail creation.

  • Come up with a unique hashtag. Use it consistently throughout the entire week to increase discoverability!

Looking for more winter or holiday marketing ideas? Download the free 2023 Holiday Marketing Calendar & Toolkit from DoorDash for a calendar of social media holidays and ideas for holiday campaigns. 

Interested in learning more about seasonal food trends? Check out our reports on Summer Food Trends, Fall Food Trends, and Spring Food Trends

Author

Sara DeForest

Sara DeForest

Copywriter

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