A la car(te): Drive-thru fuels in-car dining trend

There was also an 85% increase in drive-thru traffic for independent venues.

The number of Aussies buying meals for the purpose of consuming them in their car are rising.

According to new data from The NPD Group, ‘auto-diners’ increased by 24% for chain-based operators, and noted a 19% increase in spend for the entire foodservice industry.

The market research company cited the “proliferation” of drive-thru fast-food chains contributing to the growth, along with government restrictions and “customer apprehension” to dining in during the pandemic. The use of drive-thru increased 39% overall in Q4 2020, NPD added.

Data also showed an 85% increase in drive-thru traffic for independent venues, signalling that these venues have adapted their businesses to take advantage of the added revenue stream.

“This is a good compromise for customers and restaurants alike in Australia,” said 

“In order for restaurants to better compete with fast food dining fare, many chefs have come to realise the benefits of pivoting to simpler menu items as opposed to their signature dishes. This is a win-win solution for both restaurants and consumers. Our car is a safe space; a protected, private place where we can just sit, uninterrupted and enjoy our meal,” said Gimantha Jayasinghe, senior vice president and deputy managing director for Asia Pacific at The NPD Group.

“In the past, drive-thru purchases weren’t just for eating in the car; they were often associated with taking the meals away and eating them at home or at work. Whilst this is still a popular option, the appeal of being able to drive somewhere and choose the dining destination is also a factor. Some segments experienced greater growth than others, notably in-car dining increased by 56% in spend for those dining solo during a weekday lunchtime,” he added.

NPD data showed that two of the main motivators for using the car to purchase food was to access food variety (92%) and to treat themselves (27%).

“To me, that indicates people are using mealtimes to get out of the house if they are working from home and as a way of getting some quality ‘me time’ in a safe environment,” Jayasinghe added.

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