Two of the biggest third-party delivery services have published reports identifying the most popular orders placed on their respective platforms.
Uber Eats’ second annual Cravings Report and Grubhub’s second annual “State of the Plate” give operators, along with the simply curious, in-depth insight into what people want when they order delivery. This data could prove useful to operators who are considering limiting or otherwise adjusting their menus as they attempt to balance overhead, reduced traffic, and mandated service restrictions.
Uber Eats Cravings Report
Let’s jump right into what I know you’re after: the most popular food items ordered on Uber Eats. For their Cravings Report, the platform lists their top food and request combinations. Here they are, in ascending order:
- Poke bowl plus seaweed salad
- Ramen plus soft-boiled egg
- Burrito plus pinto beans
- Breakfast sandwich plus add butter
- Chicken nuggets plus spicy Buffalo sauce
- Cheeseburger plus side pickle
- Wings plus ranch
- Chicken sandwich plus extra mayo
- French fries plus salt
- Tacos plus lime
Those combinations lead naturally into the requests most often made by Uber Eats customers, also in ascending order:
- Extra ketchup
- Light ice
- Well done
- Extra spicy
- Dressing on the side
- Side of ranch
- No tomatoes
- Extra sauce
- No onion
Interestingly, the top two requests, along with “sauce on the side” and “no cucumber” have seen the largest increase on Uber Eats. Extra sauce, ranch, cheese, honey mustard, and spicy are the most popular “extra” orders.
Diving deeper into consumer behavior, this year’s Cravings Report reveals that specific requests are most popular on certain days of the week:
- Friday: Spicy, no onions, no mayo
- Saturday: Extra sauce, well done, no sour cream
- Sunday: Extra spicy, no mushrooms
- Monday: No ice
- Tuesday: Sauce on the side
- Wednesday: No tomatoes, no vegetables
- Thursday: No pickle, add a soda
For those wondering, Uber Eats has identified people in Connecticut, Georgia, Nevada, New Jersey and Tennessee as the customers who most often add special requests to orders. Conversely, those in Delaware, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming rarely include special requests.
The Uber Eats report also breaks down the top requests by state. You can click here and scroll down to check out the full list yourself, but I’ve shared a few below:
- Alabama: Extra Yum Yum sauce
- California: No pico de gallo
- Hawaii: All rice
- Illinois: Plain
- Nevada: No salsa
- Wisconsin: Extra queso
Grubhub “State of the Plate”
This report is more straightforward, focusing on the food items that saw the biggest boosts in order frequency over the six-month period from January 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020.
These are the most popular orders on Grubhub along with their rate of growth in popularity, in ascending order:
- Taro milk tea (168%)
- Potato taco (169%)
- Beef burrito (181%)
- Chimichanga (195%)
- Cinnamon roll (205%)
- Chili (228%)
- Iced latte (261%)
- Vanilla shake (273%)
- Plant-based burger (291%)
- Spicy chicken sandwich (299%)
The chicken sandwich, according to Grubhub data, has been growing since at least winter of 2019. Back then, its popularity grew by 238 percent. The order then saw a boost in popularity of 152 percent in spring of 2020. In fact, the spicy chicken sandwich tops the list of most popular food orders placed on Grubhub since the first shelter-in-place order was issued on March 18:
- Cheeseburger sliders (158%)
- Cajun shrimp chicken pasta (164%)
- Plant-based burger (166%)
- Red velvet cupcake (196%)
- Spicy chicken sandwich (353%)
Grubhub’s report also reveals the most popular orders in the most populous cities in the United States. In alphabetical order and accompanied by their boost in popularity, those dishes are:
- Atlanta: Plant-based burger (147%)
- Bay Area (Oakland, San Francisco & San Jose): Saag paneer (389%)
- Boston: Lettuce wrap (268%)
- Chicago: Gyro (299%)
- Dallas-Fort Worth: Elote (191%)
- Houston: Fried mushrooms (238%)
- Los Angeles: California burrito (286%)
- New York City: Mushroom burger (150%)
- Philadelphia: Buffalo chicken pizza (323%)
- Washington, DC: Drunken noodle (166%)
The 2020 “State of the Plate” report shows that plant-based orders have grown by 135 percent, plant-based burgers have risen by 90 percent, and vegan orders have increased by 23 percent. The top five vegan-friendly cities in ascending order are Boston, Las Vegas, Portland, Los Angeles and New York City. In the same order, the top five vegetarian burgers are:
- Eggplant burger (147%)
- Quinoa-based burger (161%)
- Impossible Burger (167%)
- Grilled portobello mushroom burger (179%)
- Black bean burger (233%)
Grubhub’s report breaks down the most popular orders placed via the platform by daypart. For breakfast, the most popular items are vegetable wrap (112%), shrimp and grits (179%), potato pancakes (259%), chorizo burrito (270%), and açaí bowl (359%). During lunch, the most popular orders are avocado toast (164%), kale Caesar salad (165%), chicken avocado melt (188%), tuna salad sandwich (262%), and Thai chicken salad (399%).
For dinner, these the most popular dishes are salmon avocado roll (244%), moo shu pork (266%), vegetable korma (267%), lamb vindaloo (283%), and rigatoni bolognese (292%). The most popular late-night orders are pizza puffs (182%), jalapeño poppers (216%), cheese sliders (220%), strawberry cheesecake (247%), and cheesy breadsticks (412%).
The most popular items searched during quarantine were donuts, beer, boba tea, cake, and wine. Meal kits, according to Grubhub’s data, saw an overall increase in popularity of 55 percent, with the top five being gyros, pizzas, salads, lobster rolls, and burgers.
As we’ve seen, alcohol delivery has become more popular. Some states moved quickly to pass laws permitting sales of alcohol for delivery and alcohol to go. The most popular alcohol orders on Grubhub, in ascending order, are:
- Piña Colada
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Frozen Strawberry Margarita
- Light beer
- Hot sake
- Pinot Grigio
A Tale of Two Platforms
It’s important for operators to bear in mind that Uber Eats and Grubhub each dominate different areas of the country. Also, the two third-party delivery services currently specialize in different areas of the hospitality industry: Uber Eats has partnerships with many top restaurant chains whereas Grubhub features more independent establishments, generally speaking.
When scanning both reports for top sellers, operators must also know their own numbers. If an operator is considering adding or removing items, they should review their data to avoid removing top sellers, adding items that aren’t authentic to their brand, or bringing back items that performed poorly.
Sometimes, jumping on a particular food or drink item because it appears to be trending with consumers can backfire. Again, operators must know their own operations and guests before implementing any changes.
The release of the Uber Eats and Grubhub reports should encourage operators to utilize their venue management and/or POS data to generate their own reports. During these incredibly challenging times, it’s crucial to know your numbers in order to streamline and operations and reduce costs.
Click here to review the 2020 Uber Eats Craving Report.
Click here for the 2020 Grubhub “State of the Plate” report.
I’ve been studying and writing about the hospitality industry since 2006. Like so many people, I started my journey in this business by working as a host, server and bartender. I was introduced to nightlife in Chicago, learning the ins and outs of nightclubs and after-hours hot spots.
After moving to Las Vegas nearly 20 years ago, I both co-owned a valet company and helped promote the club it serviced. That led to me taking on the role of editor for a Las Vegas hospitality industry publication.
A few short years later, I continued along my journey of hospitality industry reporting. I went from contributing to a major industry outlet to taking on the role of editor and content curator.