Study: Fries Becoming Even More Important During Pandemic

Jul 10, 2020

Study: Fries Becoming Even More Important During Pandemic

If you’re interested in keeping off-premise customers coming back during the pandemic, there’s one menu item that had better be good in delivery and takeout:  your fries.

With the stress brought on by the coronavirus crisis, Americans are hungry for comfort foods and fries are at the top of the list. According to recent research from The NPD® Group:

  • Fries remain America’s #1 side dish across all age groups
  • Fries are growing in importance on delivery menus faster than any other item
  • Fry servings at delivery are up +81% versus 2018
  • Fries are among the top 2 menu items served in QSR in every mode of service (delivery, takeout, dine-in and drive-thru
  • Fries are among the top 3 menu items served in casual dining every mode of service (dine-in, delivery and takeout)

This is good news for operators hit hard during COVID-19. Fries are a low-cost food item with high perceived value, so very profitable to offer. And because they’re one of the few things patrons can’t make themselves at home (at least, not well), cravings for restaurant-quality fries drive traffic and off-premise orders.

Off-premise fry orders are up because off-premise fries are getting better

Until the last few years, fries for delivery and takeout were almost always a disappointment for customers.  Packed into steam-trapping plastic or Styrofoam containers with other hot items like burgers, fries often arrived soggy and limp at their final destinations.

But that’s changing.

New products like Simplot Conquest® Delivery+® Fries offer operators record hold time—a remarkable, industry-leading 40+ minutes—thanks to an innovative, starch-based clear coating that stays crisp.

What’s more, Simplot Conquest® Delivery+® Fries can be reheated at home. Just 20 seconds in a microwave brings back fresh-from-the-fryer flavor and texture.  And they’re versatile enough to work well as a dine-in fry, too, so operators don’t have to stock an additional fry solely for off-premise.

Another factor adding the improvement of delivery fries:  Operators are getting better at packing fries for the road. Many have opted to use vented paper and cardboard containers that retain will heat while letting steam escape.

Off-premise isn’t going away anytime soon, so choose fries wisely

In April 2020, 58% of restaurant meals (and 70% of fries) were eaten at home.** Given the lockdown in much of the country at that time, this might not surprise you. 

But now that consumers have had a taste of the off-premise experience, their desire to enjoy restaurant meals outside of restaurants is showing signs it will to continue long after the pandemic ends.

Consider these research findings:

  • 56% of consumers have now tried 3rd party delivery sites and apps@
  • 40% say they’re likely or very likely to continue getting restaurant orders delivered*
  • 48% say they’re likely or very likely to continue getting restaurant orders via carryout*
  • Nearly 1 in 3 plan on eating inside restaurants less@

“Once we condition ourselves to these behaviors, they will not go back to previous norms,” says David Portalatin, NPD’s national food and beverage analyst. “It’s reasonable to assume that these behaviors will remain at higher levels.”

The opportunity in offering fries for takeout

While the inclusion of fries in takeout orders is up 8% since 2018, fries are still under-penetrated in this mode of service: only 27% of fries orders were eaten via takeout compared to 53% of all food orders in April 2020.**  This gap spells opportunity for operators with a fry that performs well off-premise.

To increase your takeout fry orders, be sure to feature fries prominently in your online ordering platform.

Lead with fries, the money will follow

If fries continue to be popular and off-premise ordering continues to grow (both are likely), it’ll be absolutely essential for operators to offer fries that perform as well at home as they do in the restaurant. It’s not just a matter of taste anymore. It’s a key to survival.

Learn more about Simplot Conquest® Delivery+® Fries

** The NPD Group/CREST®, April 2020
@ Datassential, 2020
*Technomic Foodservice Monitor 10th Edition, May 22, 2020