Image above: DoorDash deliveryperson.
Sales may be surging to pre-pandemic levels at many restaurants, but new data show America’s favorite place to eat continues to be at home.
The latest from NPD Group’s ongoing “Eating Patterns in America” study reveals that “chez moi” is likely to continue as the No. 1 consumer preference for the foreseeable future.
Interestingly, the data shows the at-home eating trend predates COVID-19, reflecting workforce changes and an aging population.
More people may be buying more food from restaurants, whether via takeout or delivery and prepared meals at stores. But the research finds that 82% of America’s meals were sourced from home in 2014, a number that increased to 83% by 2019 and has risen to 86% during the pandemic.
“The current conventional wisdom is that we will be using our homes less once the pandemic is over,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of the report. “The reality is we were using our homes more before the pandemic than we did in the past. Home is where we eat most of our meals, whether we prepare them or a restaurant does. This behavior is a structural change in our lifestyles, and it’s unlikely to shift any time soon.”
Population and workforce changes are fueling the long-term shift. The report says the number of people 16 and over who are not participating in the labor force has climbed 17% in the last decade. Only 56% of working-age women now do so–the lowest in 30 years. And people 65-and-older now account for almost 17% of the population. Older people tend to consume fewer restaurant meals.
“These factors transcend the crisis of the moment or boom-time economy that might replace it and will continue to influence behaviors over the long term,” he writes.
That means retailers and restaurants should continue to lean into the innovations they’ve made during the pandemic, offering more variety and convenience for at-home diners.
Obvious winners include meal delivery companies. New data from Bloomberg finds that meal delivery increased 16% in the 12 months ending in July. Overall, it says DoorDash dominated that timeframe, with 57% of U.S. meal delivery sales. UberEats followed with 23% share, and GrubHub and its subsidiaries taking 16%.