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Foodservice study shows demand rises for drive through, carry out

drive thru

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct. 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Acosta, a global integrated sales and marketing services provider in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, today released its fifth edition of The Why? Behind the Dine, the Company’s first research report providing foodservice-specific insights since its acquisition of the CORE Group in June 2021.

Acosta’s research, bolstered by the combined resources and expertise of its new division, CORE Foodservice, finds many consumers are now carrying out (27%) or eating drive thru (23%) more than they were pre-pandemic, as motivation to cook at home decreases.

“It is no secret that COVID-19 upended foodservice, but the industry is expected to rebound within the next three to four years,” said John Goodman, CEO of CORE Foodservice.

“Research by Technomic indicates restaurants and bars are likely to recover as early as 2024, due in large part to diners’ increased interest in finding high quality, safe and cost-efficient alternatives to home-cooked meals. The road to recovery will be difficult however, as restaurants now face significant operational challenges caused by widespread labor shortages and rising food costs.”

Acosta’s research provides in-depth insight into consumer dining behaviors and breaks down COVID-19-related challenges currently affecting the foodservice industry.

Consumer Restaurant Preferences

  • Over half of consumers (51%) say they go out to eat when they do not feel like cooking. Most of those eating out do so at least twice a month (60-70%).
  • Eighty-two percent of consumers say they are looking for restaurants that offer a wide variety of menu items when eating out.
  • Eighty-two percent of consumers say they are interested in trying new items when eating out.
  • Eighty-one percent of consumers say they often choose items that are on special when eating out.
  • When dining in restaurants, a majority of consumers order seafood dishes (35%). When ordering carry-out, most stick to classics like pizza and breadsticks (69%).

New Dining Experiences

  • Seventy-five percent of shoppers say they have recently eaten carry-out, dined at a restaurant and/or eaten prepared foods from the grocery store. When ordering out, consumers are increasingly interested in experiential dining options.
  • Twenty-eight percent of shoppers say they have recently ordered from a food truck.
  • Twenty-three percent of shoppers say they have recently ordered from a pop-up restaurant.
  • Nineteen percent of shoppers say they have recently ordered from a ghost kitchen.

Pandemic-Changed Dining Habits

Consumers’ overall dining experiences have changed as a result of the pandemic.

  • Fifty-three percent of consumers are dining in restaurants less.
  • Twenty-seven percent of consumers are ordering carry-out more.
  • Twenty-three percent of consumers are eating drive thru more.
  • About half of consumers say they feel more comfortable eating out now that vaccines are readily available, but as COVID-19 infections continue to rise nearly 50% of shoppers say they will either stop going out to eat entirely or switch to carry-out or delivery.
  • Twenty-three percent of shoppers say they will dine out regardless.

Restaurant Industry Challenges

Restaurants are currently faced with pandemic-caused challenges including labor shortages and ongoing demand for safety protocols. Over half of diners say they want continued COVID-19 safety precautions in restaurants, including mask requirements for kitchen and wait staff.

  • Seventy-five percent of diners want tamper proof or safety sealed packaging when ordering carry-out or delivery.
  • Thirty-two percent of diners want single serve condiments.
  • Twenty-nine percent of diners want plastic wrapped utensils.

Rising food costs are also a concern for restaurants and consumers alike, with 44% of diners noticing higher menu prices.

Acosta’s The Why? Behind The Dine report was gathered via online surveys using the company’s proprietary shopper community, conducted between August 1, 2021 and August 6, 2021.

About Acosta
Acosta is an integrated sales and marketing services provider that enables consumer packaged goods brands and retailers to win in the modern marketplace by delivering progressive solutions and exceptional service. With more than 90 years of experience, Acosta understands evolving consumer needs and helps its clients and customers stay a step ahead, fueling their accelerated performance. For more information, please visit

About CORE Foodservice
CORE Foodservice is a reimagined foodservice sales agency focused on providing solutions for the industry’s new operating environment. Launched by Acosta in 2021 after it acquired The Core Group, CORE Foodservice offers industry-leading capabilities, creating a strategically-resourced organization designed to meet the requirements of evolving customer behaviors and expectations. For more information, please visit