New study highlights consumer preferences driving off-premise restaurant trends

New study highlights consumer preferences driving off-premise restaurant trends

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Service Management Group (SMG), a global customer, patient and employee experience management partner to more than 500 brands, has introduced new research highlighting off-premise dining trends in the restaurant industry. Off-premise dining has surged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this study highlights three key themes to help restaurant brands keep pace with evolving consumer behavior and expectations.

Using BrandGeek®—SMG’s market intelligence tool and the fastest, most accurate source of behavioral data linked to customer feedback in real time—SMG collected feedback from more than 8,500 respondents to understand consumer preferences and how restaurant brands can pivot to deliver a superior off-premise experience.

  1. Most consumers prefer a DIY approach – While SMG’s annual third-party delivery study indicates the delivery channel is continuing to grow, the majority of consumers still prefer to pick up their order. Seventy-five percent of respondents have used a drive-thru in the past 90 days and more than half of respondents have used carryout [55 percent] and curbside pick-up [51 percent]. Whether it’s due to health and safety or financial concerns, the majority of consumers are going to the restaurant to pick up off-premise orders.
  2. Digital is driving off-premise orders – Prior to the pandemic, 62 percent of respondents said they ordered food online at least once a month. Since the pandemic, online ordering has increased more than 25 percent with 78 percent of respondents ordering online as frequently or more often than before. 

    When it comes to placing a restaurant order, 70 percent of respondents prefer to place their order through a mobile app or website, with the restaurant mobile app being the most preferred channel [32 percent] followed by the restaurant website [26 percent].

  3. Consumers are prioritizing safety – Seventy-four percent of respondents either agree or strongly agree that having a contactless experience is an important consideration when ordering off-premise dining. 

    In addition to avoiding physical contact, consumers are also prioritizing packaging. Eighty-four percent of respondents either agree or strongly agree that the packaging of food is an important consideration when ordering off-premise dining. In evaluating the data across age ranges, we found the importance of packaging increases with the age of the respondent, with 90 percent of consumers 55 and older agreeing or strongly agreeing that packaging is important.

“With the surge in off-premise dining, winning restaurant brands are keeping pace with consumer behavior and finding opportunities to meet evolving customer needs,” said SMG Senior Vice President of Research Paul Tiedt. “Consumers are looking for safe, convenient experiences amid the pandemic, and off-premise dining gives them an opportunity to get the food they like while allowing restaurant brands to maintain operations.”

About Service Management Group
SMG inspires experiences that improve people’s lives. We are a catalyst for change, providing actionable customer, patient, and employee insights that boost loyalty and drive business outcomes. Our unique model puts a dual focus on platform technology and professional services—making it easier to collect, analyze, and share feedback and behavioral data across the enterprise. To learn more about our customer experience management, employee experience, and brand research solutions, visit