Grubhub’s State of the Plate Report Details Covid Lockdown Dining Habits

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Grubhub, the Chicago, Illinois-headquartered online and mobile food ordering and delivery service connecting consumers with over 300,000 restaurants in the United States, on July 9 released its second annual “State of the Plate” Report. The mid-year analysis is based on more than half a million orders placed per day, of which more than half were made at a time when on-premise dining at eateries across the USA was not permitted due to government-imposed restrictions to address the deadly novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. As of July 10, the virus that has spread from China to virtually the entire world has been attributed to sickening more than 12.4 million people with Covid-19 respiratory disease and killing over 557,000.

From grabbing a chorizo burrito (270% more popular) for breakfast, a cheesy breadstick snack (412% more popular), a plant-based burger (291% more popular), or a fit-for-quarantine meal kit (orders of meal kits rose 55%), below are the trends tracked so far this year.

Top Foods of 2020 to Date

The “chicken sandwich war” that raged in 2019 has continued this year as chain and independent restaurants added the sandwich to their menus. The spicy chicken sandwich has seen a nearly 300% rise in popularity during the first half of 2020, with other top foods spanning a range of categories among plenty of newcomers. Here is the Top 10 List:

  1. Spicy chicken sandwich: 299% more popular
  2. Plant-based burger: 291% more popular
  3. Vanilla shake: 273% more popular
  4. Iced latte: 261% more popular
  5. Chili: 228% more popular
  6. Cinnamon roll: 205% more popular
  7. Chimichanga: 195% more popular
  8. Beef burrito: 181% more popular
  9. Potato taco: 169% more popular
  10. Taro milk tea: 168% more popular

Top Food in America’s Most Populous Cities

  • New York City: Mushroom burger: 150% more popular
  • Los Angeles: California burrito – 286% more popular
  • Chicago: Gyro – 299% more popular
  • Philadelphia: Buffalo chicken pizza – 323% more popular
  • Dallas-Fort Worth: Elote – 191% more popular
  • Bay Area (San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose): Saag paneer – 389% more popular
  • Washington, DC: Drunken noodle: –166% more popular
  • Houston: Fried mushrooms – 238% more popular
  • Boston: Lettuce wrap – 268% more popular
  • Atlanta: Plant-based burger – 147% more popular

Methodology: Grubhub took a look at order trends on its platform from January 1 – June 20, 2020, as compared to the same timeframe in 2019 to find the top items rising in popularity so far.

Seasonal Favorites and Forecasts

Seasonal trends tend to impact eating habits, so Grubhub took a look at exactly what rose through the ranks this past winter and spring. As far as what can be expected in the latter half of 2020, summer is seeing lighter fare while the fall heats up with a little spice.

Top Trends: Winter

  1. Chicken sandwich: 238% more popular
  2. New England clam chowder bowl: 195% more popular
  3. Barbecue burger: 132% more popular
  4. Sausage egg cheese sandwich: 101% more popular
  5. Tan tan ramen: 96% more popular

Top Trends: Spring

  1. Donuts: 214% more popular
  2. Bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit: 169% more popular
  3. Sausage burrito: 163% more popular
  4. Chicken sandwich: 153% more popular
  5. Plant-based sausage breakfast sandwich: 150% more popular

Forecasts: Summer (in ranking order)

  1. Vegetable biryani
  2. Spinach and artichoke wonton
  3. Mexican shrimp cocktail
  4. Black bean and quinoa bowl
  5. Balsamic chicken salad

Forecasts: Fall (in ranking order)

  1. Miso tofu bowl
  2. Quinoa taco salad
  3. Mushroom burger
  4. Cajun wing
  5. Buffalo chicken empanada

Methodology: “Top Trends” look at the most popular food orders during winter (December 21, 2019 – March 19, 2020) and spring (March 20, 2020 – June 20, 2020) compared to those same periods in 2018 and 2019. “Forecasted” items looked at the top foods on the Grubhub platform over the past two years, recently trending items, and other seasonal favorites to forecast what consumers in America will indulge in this summer and fall.

Vegan and Plant-based Trends Continue to Grow

Similar to Grubhub’s 2019 Year in Food Report, diners are continuing to eat vegan and vegetarian dishes. So far this year, vegan orders have risen by 23%, plant-based burgers specifically increasing by 90% and general plant-based orders up by a whopping 135%!

Top Vegetarian Burgers

  1. Black bean burger: 233% more popular
  2. Grilled portobello mushroom burger: 179% more popular
  3. Impossible burger: 167% more popular
  4. Quinoa-based burger: 161% more popular
  5. Eggplant burger: 147% more popular

Top Vegan-friendly Cities

  1. New York
  2. Los Angeles
  3. Portland
  4. Las Vegas
  5. Boston

Methodology: Grubhub took a look at vegan, vegetarian and plant-based orders in each city and compared them to the overall number of orders.

Past Favorites Still a Hit

Taking a look back at the “Top Foods of the Year” in Grubhub’s 2018 and 2019 Year In Food Report, one finds that many of the past favorites are still trending in 2020.

  • Spicy brussels sprouts: 125% more popular
  • Portobello empanada: 99% more popular
  • Plant-based burger: 95% more popular
  • Bean burrito: 83% more popular – 2018’s more popular food
  • Vegan pad thai: 74% more popular
  • Cauliflower pizza: 31% more popular – 2019’s most popular food
  • Black bean and sweet potato taco: 27% more popular

Methodology: Grubhub took a look at the top foods from past reports to see what was still gaining in popularity so far this year (January 1– June 20, 2020) as compared to the same timeframe last year.

Top Trends Across Meal Times

Breakfast: while bacon, egg & cheese came in as #1 in 2019, the breakfast staple no longer ranks even among the Top 5 of 2020’s top foods.

  1. Acai bowl: 359% more popular
  2. Chorizo burrito: 270% more popular
  3. Potato pancakes: 259% more popular
  4. Shrimp and grits: 179% more popular
  5. Vegetable wrap: 112% more popular

Lunch: salads and sandwiches lead the charge, while avocado toast makes a bit of a comeback.

  1. Thai chicken salad: 399% more popular
  2. Tuna salad sandwich: 262% more popular
  3. Chicken avocado melt: 188% more popular
  4. Kale caesar salad: 165% more popular
  5. Avocado toast: 164% more popular

Dinner: from Italian to Indian, diners are getting in a mix of cuisines for dinner.   

  1. Rigatoni bolognese: 292% more popular
  2. Lamb vindaloo: 283% more popular
  3. Vegetable korma: 267% more popular
  4. Moo shu pork: 266% more popular
  5. Salmon avocado roll: 244% more popular

Top Late-night Orders

It’s no surprise carbs come in on top, but 2020 brings in the appearance of a sweet treat.  

  1. Cheesy breadsticks: 412% more popular
  2. Strawberry cheesecake: 247% more popular
  3. Cheese sliders: 220% more popular
  4. Jalapeno poppers: 216% more popular
  5. Pizza puffs: 182% more popular

Methodology: Grubhub took a look at the top foods on its platform for the specified mealtimes/food types below from January 1-June 20, 2020 as compared to the same timeframe in 2019 to find the top items rising in popularity.

How Quarantine has Impacted America

On March 18, the first shelter-in-place order was initiated in San Francisco and most of the rest of the country followed suit shortly thereafter. As Americans stayed home, they continued to order food by using features like contact-free delivery to safely enjoy meals from local restaurants.

Over the months, Grubhub has observed diners turn to comfort foods, order alcoholic beverages, and D.I.Y. orders. Under quarantine one thing was clear: morning coffee routines changed as orders of cold brew rose by 232%.

Most Popular Foods Nationwide

It’s all about comfort foods and shareable plates as people order in.

  1. Spicy chicken sandwich: 353% more popular
  2. Red velvet cupcake: 196% more popular
  3. Plant-based burger: 166% more popular
  4. Cajun shrimp chicken pasta: 164% more popular
  5. Cheeseburger sliders: 158% more popular

Most Popular Items Searched

While restaurants and bars were closed, it is clear that consumers are searching for a way to bring home the full dining experience.

  1. Wine
  2. Cake
  3. Boba tea
  4. Beer
  5. Donuts

Top Alcohol Orders (in ranking order)

As delivery rose in popularity, so did alcoholic beverages while diners stayed home.

  1. Pinot grigio
  2. Hot sake
  3. Rosé
  4. Light beer
  5. IPA
  6. Merlot
  7. Frozen strawberry margarita
  8. Chardonnay
  9. Cabernet
  10. Pina colada

Meal Kit Deliveries Up 55%

During quarantine, orders of meal kits rose 55% compared to the year before as diners put their own personal touch on the ingredients delivered.

Most Popular Meal Kit Orders

  1. D.I.Y. burger
  2. D.I.Y. lobster roll kit
  3. D.I.Y. salad
  4. D.I.Y. pizza
  5. D.I.Y. gyro kit

Methodology: Grubhub took a look at both order trends and search trends on its platform in the respective categories from March 18 – June 18, 2020, compared to the same time span in 2019 to find the top items in popularity.