STUDY: Direct Online Ordering Surges 54% in 2021

Direct online ordering grows 54% year-over-year as restaurants take ownership of guest relationships and leverage integrated technologies.
Anna Wolfe
Senior Editor - Restaurants
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In the face of an up-and-down recovery effort, restaurants had to pivot to stay profitable with menu streamlining, price increases, and COVID surcharges.

BentoBox, a website, e-commerce and marketing platform for over 7,500 restaurant brands worldwide, released its 2021 Restaurant Trend Report, a data-forward look at what trends are influencing the future of restaurants. Amidst supply chain disruptions, the COVID-19 Delta variant, and unprecedented worker shortages slowing recovery, the Restaurant Trend Report breaks down how the industry evolved in the past year, and what's next for 2022.

[Installing a POS from a new vendor is a priority for 32 percent of operators, according to HT’s 2022 POS Software Trends Report.]


Five leading trends:

1. Rising Operating Costs Force Restaurants to Find New Efficiencies. In the face of an up-and-down recovery effort, restaurants had to pivot to stay profitable with menu streamlining, price increases, and COVID surcharges.

    • BentoBox data shows a 59% increase in cost-per-cart of online orders and a 38% increase in COVID surcharges applied to online orders.
    • Restaurant brands found more flexible ways to decrease overhead costs and drive operational efficiencies; ghost kitchens on BentoBox grew 100% in 2021 from the previous year. Specifically, burgers are the fastest-growing ghost kitchen concept, seeing 4x growth in the past year.

2. "New Normal" Emerges as Offices Reopen and Restaurants See Lunch Revenues Return. As many returned to work in offices, the office lunch made a significant comeback in 2021.

    • BentoBox data showed weekday lunchtime revenue from May to September 2021 grew between 14% and 29% daily from Monday through Thursday.
    • Interestingly, lunch orders on Friday fell 8% during the same period – showing that hybrid work will continue to keep people home for part of the week.


[BentoBox Founder  Krystle Mobayeni is one of HT's 2020 Top Women in Technology. Read how this innovator is Solving Problems Through Design and Technology]

3. Restaurant Technology (Slowly) Becomes Less Fragmented. Restaurants are increasingly looking for the right combination of technology to become leaner, faster, and more profitable.

    • BentoBox saw a 484% increase in restaurants licensing more than four features including website design, online ordering, event management and other BentoBox products. This group of integration "super users" will continue to grow in 2022 as more restaurants seek to move away from disparate tech tools.

4. Restaurants Take Ownership of Online Guest Relationships, Drive Higher-Margin Revenue. For years, third-party marketplaces dominated the digital dining landscape, but restaurants have started fighting back to own their presence, profits, and relationships.

    • In the last 12 months, over 1,100 BentoBox restaurants adopted direct online ordering, saving an estimated $38.5 million in costly fees from third-party ordering marketplaces.
    • Beyond zero-commission online ordering, restaurants saw a 200% increase in monthly revenue from offering loyalty programs as they sought to increase the lifetime value of each diner.

5. Online Ordering Trends Reflect a Changing Landscape.

    • Direct online ordering volume grew 54% year-over-year in the span of just six months. Weekdays saw the greatest increase in orders per day, powered in part by a 25% increase on Thursdays and 24% increase on Mondays.
    • Biggest increase in online orders by cuisine is Seafood +187%, Bakery +128%, and Mexican +112%.

To access the full report and read about emerging trends to watch in 2022, visit