Comfort foods take center plate in Grubhub’s 2020 ‘Year in Food’ report

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

The leader in comfort food order was the spicy chicken sandwich with a 318% increase in order popularity this year, according to GrubHub. ©GettyImages / bhofack2
The leader in comfort food order was the spicy chicken sandwich with a 318% increase in order popularity this year, according to GrubHub. ©GettyImages / bhofack2

Related tags GrubHub food delivery

Analyzing user behavior for its more than 30 million active diners this year, online and mobile-food ordering platform Grubhub saw surging orders for comfort foods and a rise of ready-to-drink coffee orders.

According to the company’s Q3 2020 financial results, active diners on its platform increased by 41% year-over-year to 30 million active users (for the year ended Sept. 30, 2020) compared to 21.2 million in 2019. Daily average orders also increased by 46% year-over-year to 668,000 daily orders compared to 457,300 in 2019.

“There's no doubt our daily routines were thrown for a loop, which led the country to order in more than usual,” ​said Grubhub.

Order trends in Grubhub’s ‘Year in Food’ report​ are based on orders made from Grubhub’s platform between January to November 2020, as compared to the same timeframe in 2019.

According to Business of Apps market data for 2020, GrubHub (and Seamless which it acquired in 2013) commands an 18% share of the food delivery market and partners with over 250,000 restaurants in 4,000 US cities. For the first time, Grubhub’s market dominance was overtaken by DoorDash this year, which currently holds a 45% share.

Comfort foods and caffeinated beverages

“While past years have seen a growth in vegan and vegetarian options, 2020 was a year where comfort foods and caffeine took a majority of the top spots,”​ said Grubhub.

Notably, diners sought out comfort dishes such as the spicy chicken sandwich taking the top spot with the highest increase in order popularity growing 318% from last year, followed by the chicken burrito bowl (+299%), chicken wings (+287%), waffle fries (+221%), steak quesadilla (+164%), fish & chips (+146%), and roast beef sandwich (+126%).

The go-to comfort sides were a mix of conventional favorites (i.e french fries and onion rings) and trendier twist on classics, according to the report. 

The top five comfort food sides were:

  1. French fries: 629% more popular
  2. Onion rings: 566% more popular
  3. Gluten-free tater tots: 544% more popular
  4. Thai chili brussel sprouts: 389% more popular
  5. Elote: 375% more popular

Consumers' quest for comfort foods and nostalgia extended to the dessert category as well.

The top five dessert dishes: 

  1. Apple pie: 330% more popular
  2. Hot fudge sundae: 273% more popular
  3. Caramel creme brulee: 137% more popular
  4. Italian ice: 129% more popular
  5. Chocolate chip cannoli: 109% more popular

Another notable trend this year, according to the report, was the rise in ordering of caffeinated, ready-to-drink beverages, which rose by 30%. The top five most popular caffeinated beverages order through the Grubhub this year included:

  1. Pumpkin spiced latte: 487%
  2. Vanilla latte: 249%
  3. Flat white: 131%
  4. Cold brew: 123%
  5. Nitro coffee: 32%

Meat alternatives continue to rise

While diners turned more towards comfort foods, they weren’t all traditional options, noted Grubhub, as popularity for comfort foods made from meat alternatives such as Impossible Cheeseburgers surged in 2020, although overall growth in demand for vegan and vegetarian trends slowed a little in 2020 vs 2019.

See the full report including a state-by-state breakdown of the most ordered food HERE​. 

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