With on-premises restaurant traffic significantly curtailed during the pandemic, the availability of off-premises options took on added importance for both restaurants and consumers. Many restaurant operators added new off-premises options in recent months, and consumers responded by increasing their usage of takeout and delivery.

The uptick in off-premises frequency was visible across each of the three major dayparts in recent months. Sixty-six percent of adults said they ordered takeout or delivery for dinner last week. This was up from 58% during the last week of February. The proportion of adults using takeout or delivery for dinner trended higher after the first few weeks of the initial lockdowns, before plateauing in the mid-60% range in early-May.

The trendline was similar for lunch. Forty-seven percent of adults ordered takeout or delivery for lunch last week – a level that has held relatively steady for the last six months. In late-February, only 37% of adults said they ordered takeout or delivery for lunch. 

The proportion of adults picking up a breakfast meal or beverage from a restaurant or coffee shop declined during the first several weeks of the pandemic, likely because many people were not going into work. However, this indicator trended higher in recent months, and reached a pandemic high of 35% last week.

Looking specifically at the dinner daypart, the largest increase in off-premises frequency was seen among older consumers. Sixty percent of baby boomers said they ordered takeout or delivery for dinner last week – up from just 41% in late-February. Sixty-six percent of Gen-Xers purchased takeout or delivery for dinner last week – up 8 percentage points from the last week in February.

Millennials and Gen Z adults continue to use takeout or delivery during the dinner daypart at higher rates than their older counterparts. However, there wasn’t a significant difference between last week’s level and their late-February readings.

For the lunch daypart, the largest increase in off-premises frequency was registered by millennials. Sixty percent of millennials ordered takeout or delivery for lunch last week – up from 46% during the last week of February.

Looking ahead over the next three months, the expectation is that consumers will maintain their off-premises usage of restaurants. Among adults who ordered takeout or delivery for lunch or dinner last week, 32% said they expect to increase their frequency during the next three months. Only 22% plan to cut their off-premises frequency for lunch or dinner.

Millennials and Gen-Xers were the age cohorts most likely to signal an increase in their off-premises frequency during the next three months. Urban residents and individuals in higher-income households are also likely to boost their usage of takeout and delivery in the months ahead.

Read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.