Restaurant Trend Report: Online Orders, Ghost Kitchens

"Together, restaurants, industry leaders and diners rallied [in 2020] to adapt, pivot and rebuild, setting the stage for a more sustainable, self-reliant future," says Krystle Mobayeni, co-founder and CEO of BentoBox. (BentoBox Restaurant Report 2020)

In December, BentoBox released its 2020 Restaurant Trend Report, which measures the digital transformation of restaurants – including adopting technologies like QR codes and direct online ordering to bypass third-parties. Moreover, it highlights the ingenuity of restaurants in changing their business models to leverage low-risk options, such as ghost kitchens and pop-ups, and creating new customer experiences – both on- and off-premise.

BentoBox is a hospitality platform empowering restaurants to own their presence, profits and relationships, and the company’s report highlights the unprecedented change in the hospitality industry, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also recognizes digital adaptation through the lens of more than 6,000 BentoBox restaurant customers worldwide.

Here are a few key findings from the report.

Direct Online Ordering
Direct online ordering has boomed as restaurants recognize the need to bypass third-party marketplaces. Average monthly online order volume grew 250 times since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with $59.18 spent per order, on average, across restaurant websites, according to BentoBox’s report. The most popular day of the week for online ordering is Friday, with Mother's Day 2020 coming out on top as the most popular holiday for online catering orders. The most ordered menu item of 2020 came from South Carolina chain, New York City Pizza, and its "New York" thin-crust pizza.

Beyond individual orders, meal kits saw a surge of popularity as at-home diners looked to create interactive dining experiences while social distancing. At-home meal kits increased 13 times in 2020 from 2019, with some of the most popular options including NYC-based ICHIRAN's Take-Home Ramen Kit and New England Lobster's Lobster Roll Kit in San Francisco.

Restaurants Go Virtual with Ghost Kitchens
Digital transformation accelerated forward as restaurants went virtual in 2020. Across both on- and off-premise experiences, technology played an integral role in powering safe options for customers.

New and existing tools like QR codes served an essential role in maintaining social distance as restaurants approached contactless dine-in capabilities fit for our new normal.

In addition to restaurants increasingly adopting technology, the popularity of ghost kitchens skyrocketed, increasing 60 times in 2020 from 2019. These virtual restaurants acted as a low-risk way to test new concepts and locations in a digital dining environment.

Influx of Donations from Diners
Many restaurants supported essential workers in 2020 and saw an influx of donations from diners during unprecedented times. BentoBox restaurants specifically donated almost 11,000 meals to frontline workers since March 2020, totaling over $190,000.

While many restaurants looked after frontline workers, diners offered their own support to restaurants and their staff in 2020, offering donations, gift cards, tickets towards online classes and merchandise purchases.

BentoBox launched its COVID-19 Relief feature through direct online ordering, which allowed guests to add donations to their orders at checkout. In total, diners donated more than $360,000 directly to restaurants and their staff through their websites and purchased more than $90,000 in gift cards.

"This year's restaurant trends highlight the grit and perseverance of the hospitality industry during a year of unprecedented challenges," said Krystle Mobayeni, co-founder and CEO of BentoBox. "Together, restaurants, industry leaders and diners rallied to adapt, pivot and rebuild, setting the stage for a more sustainable, self-reliant future.

To access the full report, visit To learn more about BentoBox, visit