Toph Ford, brand director of virtual delivery brands company Restaurant Brands Collective, shares insights on 12 key delivery food trends for 2021

  1. Deliveries through the day: the UK food delivery market was growing at a significant rate before the Covid-19 crisis and will become even bigger and more important to hospitality operators this year. New consumer habits formed during 2020 will drive growth for delivery occasions in between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner. These include sweet treats, healthier treats and drinks, such as hand spun milk shakes. These small, but growing dayparts, will offer operators more opportunity to be busy with deliveries across the day.
  2. Virtual delivery brands: move over dark kitchens, as 2021 looks set to be the year for big growth of online only virtual delivery brands, which offer a simple and cost-effective way for existing restaurant and pub operators to get into delivery sales. With virtual delivery brands, operators can use their own existing kitchen, equipment and team to prep orders to sell through delivery aggregators or to offer click and collect and delivery through their own website and phone orders.
  3. Value is essential: consumers aren’t necessarily looking for cheap deals, but offers that feel like good value. Think interesting combos, meal deals and sharers, which will appeal to the increasing number of people eating delivery meals as a group at home as a social occasion.
  4. Affordable luxury and treats: food and drink are now consumers’ day to day affordable luxuries, and when ordering meal deliveries people are increasingly willing to spend more and order more things. To capitalise on this, operators need to make it easy for customers to add things to their orders, upgrade their meals, make it bigger or more fun or interactive, such as ordering a sharer to enjoy with a friend.
  5. Breakfast/lunch deliveries: with a significant number of workers now based at home some or all of the time, breakfast and lunch deliveries will grow. The high street journey consumers previously had during the working day, including picking up breakfast on the way to the office or popping out for lunch will become a bigger part of delivery. The boom in breakfast seen on the high street in the past ten years will move on to delivery. It won’t grow as quickly, or be as big sales-wise, as other delivery dayparts but it will gain momentum this year.
  6. Safe adventures: customers aren’t likely to take too many risks when spending in 2021, so comfort and recognisable dishes such as pizza, fried chicken and burgers will remain key. But doing these classics differently/cleverly is important. For example, virtual delivery brand Mac & Co,, offers mac n cheese with a range of eight different toppings, such as burrata and green pesto and smoked chicken and roasted chorizo. A secret recipe seasoning for customers to sprinkle as a topping adds texture and interactivity for customers. Differences can also be created through how dishes are labelled and packaged.
  7. Delivering an experience: ‘experience’ has topped trends lists in recent years, but certainly for part of 2021, it will be as much about operators delivering an experience for customers at home, as in their venues. Delivering an experience that drives people to share pics of it on social media should be the aim. Think great packaging (a ‘gift’), playlists on websites for people to enjoy when eating and interactive items, such as pour over signature sauces. Little touches and surprises which help make the delivery experience more fun and interactive are the way forward.
  8. Powerful packaging: delivery packaging looks set to make more of a punch in 2021, with key trends including packaging which looks good and helps deliver an experience, including helping dishes to feel like a family of products. Expect to see more inventive packaging used by great operators this year. But most importantly packaging also still needs to keep food warm and well-presented during transit, with use of tools such as business branded greaseproof paper continuing to rise.Sustainability will need to come back onto the agenda for operators this year. The industry has done some great work on this key issue in the last decade and it needs to ensure it keeps pushing this work on. The challenges of the pandemic have seen it become less key to consumers in the past year, but they will soon return to considering it a business imperative. Tell your customers about the investment you have made in sustainable packaging and why, as this will help them view your business positively.
  9. Sweet treats: going against the health trend of recent years, driven by the continuing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, customers are also looking for food that delivers an affordable treat and gives them some comfort and fun. Treats such as warm cookies, hot waffles, desserts like ice cream tubs and indulgent shakes will become more in-demand for delivery. Ordering sweet treats as gifts for others also looks set to become a bigger trend. But operators will need to rethink the way they present sweet treats so customers get the same memorable experience at home as they would dining out.
  10. Drinks that deliver: from interesting cocktails, milkshakes and smoothies to, innovative non-alcoholic alternatives, the demand for delivery drinks is set to continue, with people still wanting the experts preparing their drinks for them when dining and socialising at home. During this current lockdown only soft drinks are allowed for click and collect and takeaway, so ensure you have some tempting options to drive purchase.
  11. Health and wellbeing: following the turmoil of 2020, dietary ideas will take a back seat for now. The drive for health will return, but the main health focus for 2021 will remain on meat reducing, so offering appealing plant-based options for delivery will be key.
  12. Pride in British: the pandemic has engendered a renewed support for British suppliers and local businesses, something hospitality operators should be looking to capitalise on through their marketing. It is also important that pub and restaurant owners continue to highlight the British businesses they support themselves on their websites and social media.

You can find out more about Restaurant Brands Collective here.