Covid lockdown fuels UK's appetite for takeaways, but who's eating what and where?

More than 46.4 million takeaways were ordered through Just Eat in three months. Credit: PA

UK households have ordered nearly 50 million meals in the past three months from one delivery service alone as Covid lockdowns and restrictions fuel the country's appetite for takeaway food.

The pandemic has seemingly accelerated UK household's love of takeaway food, with more families opting to eat in as restrictions increase in the face of a second wave.

But just as there are regional differences in coronavirus restrictions, so too are there in our food-to-go eating habits.

Deliveroo, who have had to take on more riders to cope with rising demand, have revealed that not only are people ordering more takeaways, but what and how they order has also been shaped by our extraordinary circumstances.“Overall the favourite takeaway for Brits during lockdown was the classic burger and we saw some interesting new trends emerge," a spokesperson for the delivery business said.

"For example, during the lockdown in March we saw group ordering overtake single orders for the first time ever.

"People were also eating earlier, with the peak order time shifting about 30 minutes earlier in the evening," a spokesperson said.

And people are eating differently depending on where they are in the country. According to Deliveroo's data, Liverpool, now under tier 3 restrictions, has favoured vegan food in lockdown, while customers in Blackburn have a preference for Indian food to go.

So where are Britain's biggest lockdown burrito fans, and who loves a chips and curry sauce supper?

Who's eating what where? Local lockdown takeaway favourites according to Deliveroo

  • Bangor and Blackburn’s takeaway preference is Indian. 

  • Classically British dishes is the top cuisine choice for Bognor Regis and Lincoln (fish and chips), Chichester (chips and curry sauce), Scunthorpe (Sausage and chips), Plymouth (steak pasty) and Inverness (Tattie Scone)

  • Bristol and Liverpool are the only cities whose top lockdown dish is vegan. 

  • Brighton, Glasgow, Loughborough, Manchester and Sheffield residents have kept it Italian, with pizza topping their top takeaway list

  • Edinburgh and Windsor can’t get enough of Pad Thai, whilst Basingstoke prefers a Katsu curry

  • Coventry, Gloucester and Hertford households love to order a classic kebab

  • Bath, Bournemouth, Guildford, Lancaster, Newcastle, Oxford, Swansea and Southampton have been tucking into chicken dishes over lockdown.

  • The UK’s biggest burrito fans live in Aberdeen, Belfast and Nottingham

Co-founder of the Food People, a food and beverage trends and future predications, Charles Banks said he believe regional differences demonstrate the increased importance of restaurants connection to local needs and demographics. 

"People would travel from further a field to come to restaurants from out of town, but when you're delivery your accessible market is probably smaller because of how small a car or a bike can travel and keep the food hot," he told ITV News. "I would expect to see these regional nuances that would reflect all sorts of things, social influences, demographic influences, migration influences."

Whatever people are ordering, it seems food delivery is booming during hard times, with figures released on Wednesday showing that Just Eat alone took 46.4 million takeaways orders between July and August.

Even Eat Out To Help Out, the government's scheme to encourage people back to restaurants in August, failed to dent Just Eat's profits.

The food delivery giant said its business was also boosted by signing up McDonald’s and Greggs to the platform.

Deliveroo cyclist riding a bike Credit: PA

During the first nine months of the year, 123.2 million takeaways were ordered through Just Eat – up 27% on the first nine months of 2019.

Meanwhile, Deliveroo is signing up thousands of new riders before the end of the year in response to soaring demand.

The company said it is set to “work with” - Deliveroo does not employ those who deliver food for its platform - an extra 15,000 riders.

It means that more than 30,000 riders will have joined Deliveroo’s platform since the start of 2020, doubling from 25,000 at the beginning of the year.

More than 11,000 new restaurants have joined Deliveroo in recent months, the company told ITV News; 7,400 of these new sign ups are small restaurants.

Burgers remain the UK's favourite food to go. Credit: Unsplash

The accelerating trend taps into a appetite that had been growing even before the pandemic struck; 2019's KPMG survey on takeaways found that two thirds of adults in the UK enjoyed ordering takeaways, doing so on average once a week, 66% more often than they did in 2018.

Mr Banks says the era that we are in, where the focus is on getting "food to people, rather than people to food," has accelerated burgeoning trends by five or 10 years.

"It's obviously not new, the likes of Uber, Just Eat and Deliveroo were growing before, but in the era we're living in it's just more relevant to consumers."The "Covid era" will be an influence on our social culture for a "significant period of time," Mr Banks says, which will continue to effect how we consume food which is leading the sector to find ways to bring food to people - or face being left behind.

Will Hawkley, Global Head of Leisure and Hospitality, KPMG said: “Once they developed plans to operate with social distancing in place and re-open, the takeaway market has boomed and exceeded pre lockdown growth rates which were already impressive.

“We have seen innovation too, with hybrid models and new dark kitchen operations leading to further growth in the sector and, more importantly, the creation of new jobs which is greatly needed in the hospitality sector currently.”

According to the Lumina Intelligence Food To Go After Lockdown Report 2020, however, the food to go market was expected to exceed £20bn in 2019, but as a result of coronavirus, the market has contracted by £6bn. 

“Following a decade of strong turnover growth, physical expansion in the FTG sector had peaked before coronavirus. The restricted movement enforced by the pandemic has resulted in a forecast of -28% for the full year 2020. However, FTG did not suffer as deeply as other channels and, as such, a swifter recovery is expected,” the report said. 

But the hunger for food to go looks set to continue according to the report, especially as offering takeaway is “an advantage in recessionary” times.

The FTG report said to food delivery sector is “better insulated than other parts of the wider eating out market and as such, is set to gain share this year, as ‘to go’ remains more popular than ‘dine in’”. 

"Through lockdown, to-go operations could continue, and more risk-averse consumers are expected to favour this going forward," the report said.

During lockdown, many pubs and restaurants switched to offering consumers food and drink on the go, with some innovative offerings such as grab bags and picnic baskets-to-go to boost business while their premises remained shut. Restaurant food kits have also become popular.“Going forward, it is expected that food and drink to go, particularly breakfast products including pastries and coffee, will offer additional revenue stream to more effective operators," the report said.

Many restaurants have seen takeaway sales rise in lockdown. Credit: PA

Globally, the Dutch-based Just Eat saw orders of 151.4 million in the third quarter of 2020, bringing the total to 408.3 million in the first nine months of the year.

But even the UK's love of takeaway is nothing to our friends Down Under; the company’s fastest-growing region was Australia with increases of more than 100%.