What you need to know

Restaurant takeout and delivery took on renewed and further elevated importance for operators and consumers in 2020, as both tried to navigate restaurant closures, capacity limitations and safety precautions. Some were better positioned, particularly QSRs, to pivot operations, innovate and invest in services and partnerships to keep driving traffic. Going forward, the battle for share of occasion has and will continue to be not only competitive but also complicated with operators diversifying paths to service consumers by enhancing programs while third-party service providers do the same. While innovations will undoubtedly continue to change the landscape, brands will need to balance what’s optimal vs what’s overwhelming. More than four in 10 consumers over the age of 45 are not interested in “upgrades” to delivery or takeout services.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on restaurant ordering, takeout and delivery

  • The successes and challenges of third-party delivery services and apps

  • Ordering and delivery behavior and expectations in 2021

  • Consumer interest in delivery and takeout service innovation


This Report covers the use of and attitudes surrounding restaurant delivery and pickup in general as well as third-party delivery companies. It covers changes in the restaurant online ordering market including third-party delivery companies’ operations and marketing campaigns. While pizza restaurant delivery is covered in the Report, pizza restaurants are not the focus of this Report.

Where discussed, this Report focuses solely on the restaurant portion of delivery companies (eg Postmates, Uber) that offer delivery of items other than restaurant food.

This Report builds off of Restaurant Takeout and Delivery: Including the Impact of COVID-19 – US, July 2020.

The following terms are used throughout the Report:

Pickup: Refers to orders placed online, through an app or over the phone and picked up directly by the customer at the restaurant. This includes not only takeout and curbside to-go orders but also mobile order pickup. The terms “takeout” and “pickup” are used interchangeably throughout this Report.

Third-party delivery company: Refers to any company that delivers meals from a restaurant to the consumer or enables pickup through online or mobile app ordering. These companies typically partner with restaurants and provide a platform (eg website, app) from which consumers can order food. Once the consumer orders food online, it is delivered by a contracted courier or can be picked up by the customer. Examples of these companies include Grubhub, Uber Eats, Postmates, Caviar, DoorDash, Ritual and others.

On-premise: Refers to any food or beverage consumed at the restaurant, whether indoors or outdoors.

Off-premise: Refers to any food or beverage purchased for off-site consumption, including for takeout/pickup, drive-thru or delivery service.

For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following restaurant definitions:

  • Limited service restaurants (LSRs) – These establishments provide food services where customers usually select and order items and pay before dining. Food/drink may be consumed on the premises, offered as carryout or delivered to the customer’s location. They may also sell alcoholic beverages. LSRs include both QSRs and fast casual restaurants. The other category within LSRs includes snacks and non-alcoholic beverage bars, cafeterias, grills and grill buffets.

  • Quick service restaurants (QSRs) – Used interchangeably with “fast food,” QSRs specialize in inexpensive, convenient meals. There is no waiter service, no alcoholic beverages and a low price point. Examples include McDonald’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Pizza Hut.

  • Fast casual restaurants – These establishments are characterized by a higher price point than QSRs though not as high as full-service restaurants. Fast casuals do not offer waiter service and may or may not serve alcohol. Examples include Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, Shake Shack and Blaze Pizza.

  • Full service restaurants (FSRs) – These establishments have waiter/waitress service in which customers order and are served while seated. They may also sell alcoholic beverages and offer carryout and delivery services. These include three FSR segments: midscale, casual dining and fine dining.

  • Family midscale restaurants (used interchangeably with family dining restaurants) offer the lowest check size of any FSR. A majority of midscales do not serve alcohol, though some may have a limited alcohol selection (just beer and wine). Midscale examples include Denny’s, Cracker Barrel and IHOP. Buffet restaurants are classified as midscale restaurants (eg Golden Corral).

  • Casual dining restaurants represent the largest segment of the FSR market. Casual dining restaurants have higher pricing than family/midscales but lower than fine dining, and they offer a full bar. Examples include Chili’s, Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse.

  • Fine dining restaurants have the highest price point of all FSRs.

Market context

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel bases its expectations for economic growth on projections provided by the CBO, the FOMC, the Conference Board and other public sources. Consensus estimates forecast US GDP to increase by 6.5% in 2021. Unemployment has been forecast to decline to as low as 4.1% by the end of 2021 with an average of 5.7% for the year.

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