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Food delivery giant reports spicy dishes garnered strong preferences, vegan and plant-based continue make gains, while saki and Japanese beer are top three alcohol delivery items.

Looking at trends from hundreds of thousands average daily orders, Grubhub‘s mid-year “State of the Plate” report checks in on what has shaped 2021 thus far, including the top trending foods, popular restaurants across the country, and what we can expect to see more of in the second half of the year.

Top Foods of 2021 to Date

Unlike 2020, diners opted for the plant-based versions of delivery classics so far in 2021. And while last year’s top food, the wildly popular spicy chicken sandwich, didn’t make the list, the Nashville hot chicken sandwich still made the top 10.

  1. Plant-based sausage wrap: (+549%)
  2. Bubble milk tea: (+505%)
  3. Birria taco: (+500%)
  4. Everything omelet: (+454%)
  5. Strawberry banana cream smoothie (+430%)
  6. Spicy miso tonkotsu ramen: (354%)
  7. Churro waffle: (+339%)
  8. Beef empanada: (+333%)
  9. Nashville hot chicken sandwich: (+327%)
  10. Korean barbecue cauliflower wing: (+302%)

The top foods below have seen the fastest growth on the Grubhub platform during the first half of 2021.

  • Top Side Dishes: Southern-inspired side dishes reign supreme in 2021.
  1. Cajun fries: (+630%)
  2. Red beans and rice: (+612%)
  3. Corn chowder: (+603%)
  4. Jalapeno bites: (+465%)
  5. Biscuits and gravy: (+368%)
  • Top Desserts: Pies and chocolate are a recurring theme in the dessert category.
  1. Chocolate french silk pie: (+698%)
  2. Cinnamon apple pie: (+584%)
  3. Frozen custard: (+486%)
  4. Cookies & cream milkshake: (+458%)
  5. Peanut butter & hot fudge sundae: (+423%)

Top Foods Across Major Markets

Look close enough and it’s clear that 2021 brought some twists on local favorites (we’re looking at you, Chicago and Philadelphia).

New York City: Toasted Monte Cristo panini (+691%)
Los Angeles: Beef barbacoa taco (+686%)
Chicago: Thin crust pepperoni pizza (+694%)
Philadelphia: Cheesesteak wrap (+694%)
Dallas-Fort Worth: Chicharron taco (+690%)
Houston: Smoked mac and cheese (+592%)
Boston: Meatball and tomato ragu (+689%)
Atlanta: Chicken & waffles (+532%)
Bay Area (SF, San Jose, Oakland): Brisket pho (+697%)
Washington D.C.: Jumbo lump crab cake (+562%)

Vegan & Plant-Based Trends Continue to Grow

Like we saw in Grubhub’s 2020 Year in Food Report, diners continue to eat plant-based, but the pace has slowed down a bit compared to previous years. So far this year, vegan orders have risen by 17%, plant-based burgers specifically increasing by 28%, and general vegetarian orders by a whopping 55%!

Top Vegan Orders

  1. Plant-based sausage wrap: (+549%)
  2. Barbecue cauliflower wing: (+302%)
  3. Mushroom & tofu broth ramen: (+299%)
  4. Sauteed string bean + garlic: (+264%)
  5. Grilled vegetable hummus bowl: (+242%)

Top Cities for Vegans

  1. Los Angeles, Calif.
  2. New York City, N.Y.
  3. Portland, Ore.
  4. Miami, Fla.
  5. Philadelphia, Pa.

Top Alcohol Orders

The pandemic allowed more restaurants across the country to deliver alcoholic beverages, and that trend continued into 2021. Diners jumped on board with the top orders ranging from light beer, tropical cocktails, and a brunch favorite.

  1. Dutch lager
  2. Hot sake
  3. Japanese beer
  4. Hibiscus margarita
  5. Blood orange margarita
  6. Aperol spritz
  7. Hard seltzer
  8. Peach Paloma
  9. Pina colada
  10. Mimosa

Seasonal Favorites & Forecasts

The weather tends to affect our eating habits, so we looked at which orders rose the most this past winter and spring. We expect a mix of hot and cold food orders to trend during the summer months and desserts during the fall months with one obvious go-to flavor.

Top Trends: Winter

  1. Short rib rigatoni: (+270%)
  2. Corned beef and cabbage: (+219%)
  3. Butternut squash soup: (+154%)
  4. Grilled chicken avocado sandwich: (+131%)
  5. Chicken dum biryani: (+124%)

Top Trends: Spring

  1. Margherita pizza: (+283%)
  2. Strawberry lemonade freeze: (+210%)
  3. Peanut butter sundae: (+194%)
  4. Spicy chicken sandwich: (+165%)
  5. Chicken bacon ranch melt” (+154%)

Forecasts: Summer (in ranking order)

  1. Loaded chicken nachos
  2. Barbecue pork quesadilla
  3. Watermelon slushy
  4. Strawberry shortcake sundae
  5. Heirloom tomato salad

Forecasts: Fall (in ranking order)

  1. Vegan mapo tofu
  2. Truffle mushroom swiss burger
  3. Raspberry cheesecake
  4. Cookie & cream milkshake
  5. Pumpkin cupcake

Top Trends Across Meal Times

Breakfast: Acai bowls dropped from #1 to #3, while morning drinks made the list this year.

  1. Mocha iced coffee: (+351%)
  2. Chorizo breakfast burrito: (+318%)
  3. Acai bowl: (+297%)
  4. Mango pineapple smoothie: (+207%)
  5. Shrimp & grits: (+178%)

Lunch: Thai chicken salads take the #1 spot for the second consecutive year.

  1. Thai chicken salad: (+324%)
  2. Chicken pot pie soup: (+278%)
  3. Chicken pesto sandwich: (+261%)
  4. Strawberry poppyseed salad and chicken: (+202%)
  5. Caribbean jerk chicken wrap: (+198%)

Dinner: Indian-inspired foods continue to be a favorite for dinner.

  1. Vegetable samosa: (+260%)
  2. Hawaiian teriyaki chicken skewers: (+247%)
  3. Eel avocado roll: (+244%)
  4. Tandoori chicken: (+220%)
  5. Seaweed salad: (+215%)

Late-night: Comfort foods and sweet desserts dominate late-night food orders.

  1. Pizza puff: (+294%)
  2. Strawberry cheesecake: (+269%)
  3. Buffalo chicken pizza: (+244%)
  4. Buffalo wings: (+234%)
  5. Hot fudge sundae: (+209%)

Grubhub’s “State of the Plate” report is based on trends gathered from tens of millions of orders on the Grubhub platform. Order trends detail the rise in popularity of food items placed by Grubhub diners from January-June 2021, as compared to the same timeframe in 2020.

Grubhub features over 300,000 restaurants and is proud to partner with over 280,000 of these restaurants in over 4,000 U.S. cities.

Source: Strong Taste for Spicy Foods in Grubhub’s ‘State of the Plate’ Report – CStore Decisions