Skip to Main Content

To Delivery and Beyond: Innovative Food Delivery Trends in The Time of COVID-19

COVID-19, Food Trends

Stay informed on the latest food industry insights by subscribing to our newsletter.

In episode seven of our Simply Smarter webinar series, Datassential president and Haiku master Jack Li, senior managing editor and trendologist Mike Kostyo and senior publications editor Renee Wege highlight the pandemic-inspired innovation that’s propelling food delivery trends designed to meet customer needs amid a new normal.


Concerns about COVID and eating out avoidance fluctuate

Concerns about the Coronavirus and about dining out were moving in the wrong direction in mid-September, but appear to have settled down.

As of September 13 the percentage of those “very concerned” about coronavirus had spiked to 63%. The percentage of people responding they would “definitely avoid” eating out hit 51%. The trend seemed to continue in the wrong direction for weeks, but then both levels dipped again by the end of the month showing promising signs. The Sept. 30 data showed those “very concerned” about coronavirus at 53% and eating out avoidance at 45%—both at levels more consistent with those in May and June.

The somewhat dramatic spikes in mid-September likely reflect what was happening in the world, putting patrons on heightened alert, only to ease once again as the narrative changed. While we’ll continue to monitor consumer concerns, delivery will remain a strong channel for months to come.


Innovative food delivery trends in the time of COVID-19


The Netflix model meets food delivery

Have you ever noticed the super specific recommendations Netflix offers you based on your viewing habits? That ultra-customized model is now being adapted for food delivery trends, offering customers food recommendations based on their dining tastes.

For example, sweetgreen announced its new Collections app where it will offer an “expansive list of thoughtfully curated categories that aim to meet guests’ specific needs.” Through this model, they’ve created a highly personalized ordering experience.

Personalized food delivery trends are not exclusive to that model. The trend is really about discovering customers’ unmet needs and coming up with creative ways to satisfy. A few other examples include:

  • Jamba (formerly Jamba Juice) launched its first food truck
  • Local restaurants enlisted local musicians by employing them as delivery drivers and, for an upcharge, offered serenades with delivery
  • Buffalo Wild Wings created exclusive game-day dining experiences within its otherwise empty restaurants


Innovative food delivery trends in the time of COVID-19


Drive-thrus to the future

Pandemic-inspired drive-thru concepts are more futuristic than ever before with a variety of features aimed at improving efficiency and safety, including:

  • Multi-lane drive-thru windows
  • Dedicated pick-up lanes and windows for mobile orders and food delivery services
  • Contact-free food drops delivered right to vehicles
  • Car dining accommodations like overhangs, shades, and dedicated parking spots


Al fresco dining is ‘molto caldo’

Outdoor dining seems to be here to stay —even as most of the country enters colder months. Restaurants are eager to test solutions to keep people dining outdoors despite the elements. Heaters, clear domes, and blankets will all be mainstays to keep customers comfortable and coming back.

Some restaurants concerned about keeping their dining atmosphere on par with their menu price points are designing outdoor spaces—even sidewalks—with opulent elements to transform the experience.


Innovative food delivery trends in the time of COVID-19


Virtual learning disrupts school lunch status quo

More than 80% of families are attending school completely or partially from home and have had to adjust their daytime meal routine.

Food delivery trends are rising to the occasion to help parents tackle school lunch at home with:

  • Child-friendly hot and cold boxed lunches
  • Meal kits for quick and easy preparation at home
  • Kids study and eat areas on-site to give parents a break

All the talk about virtual learning has left many wondering how close to 22 million students receiving free or reduced price lunches nationwide will eat during the day. Necessity breeds invention once again, and food delivery trends indicate an increasing number of restaurants and food brands are powering initiatives like Feed The Fridge School Lunch Program to ensure kids have reliable access to food.


Is innovation the COVID-19 silver lining?

It is unlikely we will be able to go back to the way things were before COVID-19. A new normal awaits at the end of this health crisis, and that new normal is sure to be shaped by the creative, solution-oriented ideas being brought to market in the thick of the pandemic.


Watch the full webinar recording to catch all the insights we shared, and be sure to register here to attend future webinars.