15+ Food Delivery Industry Statistics Every Small Business Owner Needs to Know in 2024

America‘s on-demand food delivery industry has boomed over the past few years. Once considered a convenient luxury, services like DoorDash, Uber Eats and GrubHub are now staples in everyday life.

As an advisor to small and mid-sized restaurants, I‘ve seen the opportunities – and challenges – these delivery apps can pose first-hand. Mastering off-premise dining is crucial for growth, but delivery comes at a cost. Partnerships must be strategic.

This in-depth guide explores need-to-know food delivery statistics that help set context around industry growth, customer preferences and operational impacts. Let‘s dive in.

Surging Industry Growth and Projections

Food delivery revenue expanded 204% over the past 5 years. Growth skyrocketed during pandemic lockdowns and remains strong today as delivery becomes habitual for time-strapped consumers.

Uber Eats alone saw gross bookings increase 124% YoY in Q2 2022. Competitor DoorDash captured 57% of US meal delivery sales.

Industry reports predict this growth sustaining over the coming years:

Food delivery industry revenue growth chart

As you can see, US revenue is expected to nearly double by 2028 to $47B. Global figures show similar hockey stick trajectories.

Below we’ll analyze drivers behind growth, latest consumer trends and what this growth means for restaurants weighing delivery decisions.

Pandemic Catalyzed Lasting Behavior Shifts

Pandemic lockdowns undoubtedly provided a catalyst. With dining rooms closed, delivery and takeout became essential for restaurant survival. This drove lasting consumer behavior shifts.

60% of US households now order delivery at least weekly according to industry analysis. Uber Eats app downloads doubled in 2020 and the user base continues expanding today.

While dine-in visits rebounded post-lockdowns, convenience has consumers hooked. A 2021 survey found 67% of past delivery customers more likely to dine-in at a restaurant if they’ve ordered online before.

Delivery also acts as brand exposure. Customers sampling a restaurant’s food from home are more likely to become in-store regulars.

Operational Considerations for Restaurants

But restaurants know delivery demand comes at a cost. Commission fees erode already-tight margins. Staffing and packaging costs add up.

77% of restaurants partner with third party apps, but some consider backing out to protect profits. Tipping points look different for every business based on finances, staffing and target customer demographics.

Independent pizzerias and family-owned Asian restaurants recognize loyal neighborhood regulars. Delivery provides important incremental revenue without high dependency.

Upscale establishments luring expense account corporate diners may eliminate off-premise options completely. Value perception relies on exceptional dine-in ambiance that’s impossible to replicate at home.

Mid-tier chains face more complex decisions on managing delivery in a cost-effective way.

Delivery-Only "Dark" Kitchens Raise Competitiveness

Growth also triggers external competition. Virtual restaurant concepts optimized exclusively for delivery undermine dine-in focused operations.

These dark kitchens minimize front-of-house costs like servers, seating and décor. Limited menus tailored specifically to travel well boost quality control too.

Lower costs and delivery-centric processes give dark kitchens advantage in areas like order volume and delivery times. Traditional establishments struggle matching convenience and narrow profit margins.

Large chains get involved too. Brinker International, Yum! Brands and The Wendy’s Company all invested recently in ghost kitchen companies optimizing takeout and delivery. More corporate competition looms.

Infrastructure and staffing challenges can deter small restaurants from delivery too. A recent survey found 63% of operators already dealing with supply chain disruptions and labor shortages. Battle-tested third parties help alleviate some pressure.

Consumer Preferences Signal Strategy Importance

Understanding nuances in consumer preferences helps guide strategic decisions around delivery. Key stats to note:

  • 70% of customers prefer ordering directly from restaurants over third parties
  • But 77% of restaurants utilize DoorDash, Uber Eats and similar apps
  • 41% would buy DIY meal kits from favorite restaurants
  • When used strategically, delivery customers convert to in-store diners at 2x rates

This data shows opportunities around branded take-out experiences connecting directly with consumers. Packaging, loyalty programs and cross-channel coordination become differentiators.

Meal kit options appeal to pandemic-fueled home cooking trends as well. DIY options establish customer relationships that encourage future in-store purchases.

Delivery, when thoughtfully implemented, serves as marketing. Small investments should yield in-store payoffs.

Key Takeaways for Restaurants & Small Businesses

  • Food delivery continues steep growth trajectories in a post-pandemic world
  • Diner behaviors shifted towards convenience permanently
  • Delivery-only dark kitchens intensify competition
  • Strategic partnerships, packaging and loyalty programs differentiate branded take-out experiences
  • Used thoughtfully, delivery drives brand exposure and customer conversion

I help small business restaurants navigate market dynamics like shifting consumer preferences. Reach out directly if you need assistance implementing data-backed delivery or take-out strategies customized for your neighborhood customer base and operational infrastructure.

There are always opportunities to leverage industry trends to your advantage. But every business faces unique challenges requiring customized approaches. Getting delivery right involves careful analysis of operations, staffing constraints, target demographics, revenue projections and existing POS infrastructure.