Across the United States, 85% of diners decide what to eat for dinner the same day the meal occurs, so it may not come as a surprise that compared to 2015, convenient meal solutions grew across almost every category and generation, according to research released by Acosta, Jacksonville, Fla., and Technomic, Chicago.

The study, “The Why? Behind The Dine,” explores the most recent dining developments and motivators changing the way diners engage with foodservice.

"Whether it's enjoying a family dinner out or picking up carry-out food, diners are seeking convenient, healthy options for themselves and their families," says Colin Stewart, senior vice president at Acosta. "We are seeing more diners take advantage of the seemingly endless array of meal solutions, be it a quick trip through the drive-thru, grocery prepared foods, lunch from a food truck or preparing dinner using a meal/ingredient kit.”

Highlights from the report include:

Convenient eats

  • Delivery food continues to be a popular meal solution for diners. In the three months leading up to the survey, 51% of U.S. diners and 77% of Millennial diners reported ordering delivery food.
  • Diners surveyed expressed interest in everything, including hamburgers (28%), chicken wings (27%), Mexican fare (21%), barbecue (14%) and desserts (11%).
  • In 2015, only 8% of U.S. diners indicated they had ordered a meal/ingredient kit online. That figure increased by 10 percentage points to 18% of total U.S. diners by 2017, with more diners with kids and Millennial diners engaging with this option.

Welcoming Gen Z to the table

  • Gen Z diners are already outpacing Boomer and Silent diners in reported monthly spending on food prepared outside the home.
  • 58% of Gen Z diners agreed they use the internet to find the best restaurant deals, the most of any generation.
  • Nearly 70% of Gen Z diners agreed they like it when they have restaurant leftovers for another meal.

Diners with kids

  • Diners with kids reported their monthly spending on food prepared outside the home was more than twice that of diners without kids ($208 vs. $95).
  • Healthier options continue to be important among diners with kids, with 46% eating more salads at restaurants over the past year, and 43% eating more restaurant meals with locally sourced ingredients.
  • Diners with kids are plugged in while dining out. Twenty-eight percent connect to Wi-Fi on their personal mobile device while at a restaurant.

The study was fielded in November 2017 in partnership with Technomic, using a random sample of 1,500 U.S. diners.