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Eating out behavior in the U.S. - statistics & facts

In the United States, eating food out at a restaurant or ordering it for takeout/delivery has become increasingly popular. For the ten years leading up to 2019, food and drink sales in the United States restaurant industry steadily increased and reached over 773 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. Though this number fell in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, sales were still higher that year than in most of the twenty years prior. This general increase is unsurprising considering the average annual expenditure on eating out in U.S. households also increased over the last decade, with American households spending an average of over three and a half thousand dollars on food away from home in 2019. That being said, the in-house dining market took a huge hit during the pandemic, with the number of sit-down diners in the U.S. dropping by 100 percent in March 2020. This figure fluctuated throughout the remainder of 2020 and 2021 due to the changes in COVID-19 case numbers and regulations.

The rise of takeout and delivery in the U.S.

One key factor that contributed to the rise of eating out in the U.S. in recent years was the introduction of online food delivery services, such as DoorDash and Uber Eats. Furthermore, many restaurants began to offer the option to place orders online, either through a restaurant’s website directly or with smartphone apps. The number of smartphone food delivery app users in the U.S. reached over 36 million in 2019, a figure that was forecast to grow. While some food service providers such as pizza restaurants have been offering delivery services for years, the introduction of food delivery service apps has allowed more restaurants to begin offering delivery as well. Among digital restaurant food orders in the U.S. in 2020, a majority were carry-out orders, while the remaining 38 percent were delivery orders. While the share of U.S. food service transactions initiated via an ordering app was six percent in 2019, this more than doubled in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to 15 percent.

Impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on U.S. eating out behavior

During the pandemic, U.S. restaurants were unable to offer indoor dining for long periods of time and had to rely on takeout or delivery orders. The U.S. areas that accounted for most of the local restaurant orders placed online or via an app during the pandemic were suburban and urban areas. Meanwhile, rural areas accounted for the least online orders during the pandemic. Food service consumer spending in the U.S. fell dramatically in the first few weeks of the pandemic, dropping from a pre-pandemic spend of nearly 55 thousand U.S. dollars to around 33 thousand dollars in the first week of April in 2020. Despite this initial decrease in consumer spending on food services, U.S. customers were itching to return to eating out at restaurants. In a survey looking at the level of U.S. public excitement to eat out after COVID-19, the majority of respondents indicated that they were either very excited to eat out at a restaurant again or had already done so.

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