Digital orders at restaurants dropped 17 percent in August, down from 20 percent in April of this year, according to NPD CREST’s latest monthly update.
While that’s not an enormous drop, it does suggest many people still prefer eating at restaurants to ordering ahead and picking the food up or having it delivered.
The slight downturn in digital sales coincides with the fact that in many cities, some form of dine-in service has been available for a few months now. “As the summer progressed and mandated restrictions were lifted, an increasing number of consumers became more comfortable dining out based on the safety protocols restaurants put in place,” says author and NPD food industry advisor David Portalatin.
Along those lines, NPD notes that on-premises service, whether in the dining room or with outdoor seating, have “improved every month since April” and that August trends reflect a restaurant industry operating with far fewer restrictions than were in place at the height of the pandemic.
Not that it hasn’t been a tough road for most restaurants over the last six months. Dine-in service may be available, but it’s with capacity restrictions almost everywhere. Meanwhile, many restaurant owners still struggle to pay rent, and there are questions around the fate of dine-in service once the weather grows cold enough to make outdoor dining an unlikely choice for many consumers (though creative solutions to this problem are emerging).
Some states are just now about to increase their capacity numbers inside restaurants, while others are on the cusp of reopening indoor dining for the first time since shutdowns began. At the same time, reports of rising COVID-19 cases are multiplying. How the pandemic’s trajectory travels for the next few months will most certainly impact what on-premises dining sales look like with NPD CREST’s next report. If extreme measures have to be taken again, digital orders could experience another surge.