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Restaurants are always adjusting their delivery offerings to suit customer preferences and create a five-star experience. To stay ahead of the curve — and remain competitive in the fast-paced restaurant industry — you must keep up with the latest trends in food delivery. When you know exactly what’s happening in the online food delivery market, you can adapt your restaurant operations accordingly and offer the best possible customer experience.

Food delivery trends

The world of food delivery has been changing rapidly in the last few years. Pandemic lockdowns accelerated delivery orders, and demand has stayed high. In fact, the average customer spends $407 per month for on-demand delivery in 2023 — considerably more than the average of $157 per month in 2021. Adopting food delivery trends is one way to increase your stake in this growing market.

1. Data-driven decision making

Most online food ordering systems and food delivery companies collect a great deal of data about your customers. That information is a valuable asset for restaurants; it enables you to see which dishes are the most popular, pinpoint the busiest hours for food delivery, and identify positive and negative trends in review. Restaurants are using these trends in food delivery data to make more informed decisions about service offerings, pricing, and menu engineering.

Grubhub offers restaurants a variety of different insights into their performance on the customer insights dashboard. On this dashboard, restaurants can view total sales and orders as well as the average daily order and order value of customers’ orders.

2. Grocery delivery

Grocery delivery spiked in popularity during the pandemic; sales went from $1.2 billion in August 2019 to $7.2 billion in June 2020. It continues to be one of the biggest food delivery trends in 2023 — though sales have settled somewhat with the return of normal operations, they’re still dramatically higher than pre-pandemic figures. Customers love the convenience of ordering online and getting groceries delivered right to their door at any time.

3. Drone delivery

Technology is driving one of the most exciting food delivery service innovations for restaurants: drones that drop off delivery orders. Retail giant Walmart is deploying drones in certain parts of Texas, Arizona, and Florida. Amazon offers the service in College Station, Texas, and Lockeford, California. Because they don’t need to deal with traffic, drones can often get packages to customers in an hour or less. While this trend is still quite limited, it’s expected to grow as more businesses look to get ahead in the food delivery industry.

4. Contactless delivery

No-contact food ordering is another one of the top pandemic-driven trends. It began as a way to slow the spread of germs; today, restaurants use contact-free delivery to cater to customers who need more flexibility. Instead of handing meals to customers, drivers for individual restaurants or online food delivery companies simply drop off the food at the door. Then, the system sends a notification to the customer, who can then add a tip to their preferred payment method. Though it sounds simple, contactless delivery lets establishments offer a personalized customer experience.

5. Sophisticated third-party delivery options

For restaurants that don’t have the resources to maintain a fleet of in-house drivers, a third-party delivery partner can help expand service offerings. Delivery platforms such as Grubhub are evolving to offer additional value with online ordering websites, alcohol delivery, food delivery subscriptions, cloud kitchens, grocery delivery, promotions and loyalty features, and POS integrations. Food delivery companies adapt automatically to your restaurant’s low- and high-volume days, so you can adjust to demand without incurring additional costs.

How to improve your restaurant delivery services

How can restaurants keep pace with trends in food delivery? To start, focus on updating and streamlining your takeout and delivery services. When everything operates efficiently, it’s easier to pivot to adapt to changes in the food delivery industry.

Some ways to improve delivery service include:

  • Embracing ordering technology. Customers are accustomed to fast, convenient orders. Meet that expectation by implementing a technology-driven online ordering system that’s efficient and easy to use. Then, add highly visible “order online” buttons or links to your website, Google Business Profile, and social media profiles — that way, customers can order as soon as the mood strikes.
  • Communicating clearly. Some of your customers may like to call in their delivery orders, but the majority probably prefer the speed and efficiency of online ordering. To help each person find the method that feels most comfortable, make sure they’re aware of all available options. Provide links to your preferred third-party delivery services or online ordering site to drive customers.
  • Maintaining an updated online menu. Whether they’re dining in or ordering takeout or delivery, customers often check your menu in advance. Some people like to see what’s new, while others want to check prices or verify that a specific dish is available. Make guests’ lives easier by maintaining an up-to-date online menu that includes food photos on your website and online food delivery apps.
  • Implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs). Work with your employees to develop a standard procedure for accepting, preparing, packaging, and releasing delivery orders. Write it down, and train everyone to follow the same steps. This process helps your team work efficiently, reduces food waste, and improves food quality for every delivery order. As a bonus, you won’t need to adjust delivery operations if you work with more than one food delivery company.
  • Integrating food order tracking. Order tracking is no longer a nice perk — it’s a baseline expectation. Customers appreciate the ability to monitor the progress of their food and see where the delivery driver is in real time. They’re less likely to call your restaurant, which reduces administrative burden and frees up your employees to focus on food prep.

As you make changes, see how each one affects operations and customer satisfaction. Use this feedback to refine the system until it’s running smoothly.

Deliver with Grubhub

Integrating food delivery trends is a great way to remain current and improve the customer experience. Before you can experiment with different fads, however, you need a reliable takeout and delivery system to act as a foundation. For many restaurants, a trustworthy third-party delivery partner is the most cost-effective way to add delivery without a major change in infrastructure.Grubhub for Restaurants is the ideal solution — with more than 33 million customers nationwide, it provides an easy way to increase exposure and reach more people. Whether you run a small mom-and-pop shop or a major national chain, Grubhub’s professional drivers ensure your customers receive top-notch delivery service for every order. Want to find out more? Try Grubhub free for 30 days.