Curry orders popular as online sales rise rapidly in COVID-19 crisis

Conor Ward
Author Conor Ward
Orders by cuisines uk 2

Orders of Indian takeaways have more than doubled in the UK during the coronavirus crisis with many consumers opting for a comforting curry.

Takeaway curry orders have increased by 107% in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic and some restaurants are grappling to keep up with an unprecedented boom in demand as online orders surge. One Flipdish customer, Tuk Tuk Indian Street Food in Edinburgh, Scotland has seen its online orders exploding by 1,300%.

Meanwhile, Chinese and Thai food have started to bounce back after an initial decline in sales in February, with orders increasing 23% and 73%, respectively. Fish-and-chip shops have seen sales rise by 74%, while pizza demand grew by 13% in just one week. These figures are based on a sample of 50 restaurants in the UK between 20-22 March, compared to 6-8 March.

Rapid trend towards takeaway

Many restaurants in the UK are having to pivot to online ordering and delivery fast, as evidenced by a 35% increase in new UK restaurant sign-ups to the Flipdish online ordering system in the last two weeks. The figures reveal a rapid and strong trend towards restaurants operating as takeaways during the crisis.

In a broader context, a year-on-year comparison shows that the number of UK restaurants transforming their business models to include takeaway services digitally has nearly tripled (270% growth).

Flipdish CEO, Conor McCarthy, has stressed the importance of supporting local businesses to help ensure their survival at this time.

“As people stay at home to do their bit to tackle the coronavirus, many are opting for a comforting curry. But not only are they protecting themselves and the NHS by ordering takeaway food, people are helping to keep restaurants afloat. Independent restaurants are the lifeblood of the UK hospitality industry and a fundamental part of the cultural fabric of the nation. Everyone who can should support their local favourites during the crisis,” McCarthy said.

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Making business adjustments

McCarthy also had some advice for restaurants and takeaways, in terms of adjusting their business model to focus on online orders and takeaway during the crisis. The positive message is that restaurants still have room to manoeuvre and boost sales in this regard.

“With the (UK) government mandating all cafes, pubs and restaurants must close to help contain the spread of coronavirus, the only way for many restaurants to stay in business is to urgently transform into takeaways. We’ve had plenty of calls from restaurant owners asking how to switch to a delivery model, and whether it’s even possible to get a website up and running in time. My message to restaurants is that it’s not too late to set up a takeaway service,” he said.

He also warned restaurants owners over the importance of protecting their profit margins and retaining control when forming an online ordering strategy.

“Working with an aggregator like Just Eat might seem like a fast way to get up and running, but it won’t protect your margins and it will also mean you lose control of your most important asset - your customers. Using marketplaces also means sending your precious customers to a space that has all of your direct competitors listed alongside your menu.”

“We’ve been working with a number of customers over the last few days, getting them set up with their own websites and apps in a matter of hours. Building an online delivery service could help restaurants stay afloat during the crisis, and also rebuild their balance sheets in the long-term,” he said.

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Cause for optimism

Restaurant owner Lee Bandoni runs the Aldwych Cafe in Glasgow. He acknowledges that it’s a very challenging time for many in the sector but maintains that there is cause for optimism looking towards the long-term.

“We’ve had to scale more in the last two weeks than the previous two years. We’re currently suffering short-term pain for long-term prosperity. Once the coronavirus is over, the takeaway industry is going to prosper but those restaurants and takeaways that don’t innovate will suffer,” he said.

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