These were Deliveroo and Talabat's most-ordered items of 2020

2020 was a year for comfort food

December 3, 2008 /Abu Dhabi / Christmas pastries December 3, 2008. Banana Bread (Sammy Dallal / The National) 

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Delivery platforms Talabat and Deliveroo have released their findings about food preferences based on what people ordered in 2020. Some of these are expected to inform dish choices and trends for the year going forward, while others are likely to get the axe.

Both platforms found that burgers, the ultimate comfort food, were the most ordered cuisine in the UAE last year. The top choices were the Spicy McChicken from McDonald’s, the Five Guys cheese burger and the Shack burger from Shake Shack. Talabat noted that out of the top 20 items ordered during lockdown, 10 were from McDonald’s, including Chicken McNuggets, and all manner of medium and happy meals.

The Shack burger from Shake Shack
The Shack burger from Shake Shack

Paradoxically, people also ordered more vegan and healthy food than ever before. Deliveroo noted that its orders of plant-based dishes were up 115 per cent compared to 2019, while the number of restaurants offering vegan menus more than doubled in 2020. The traditional acai bowl from The Acai Spot and the poke bowl from Cali-Poke also made it to the list of most popular dishes.

Chicken was the most ordered meat, with the chicken sando from Pickl topping among Deliveroo customers, and 14 out of the Talabat’s 20 most-ordered items during lockdown being chicken-based (including those aforementioned McNuggets).

The platform also noted that Oreo McFlurry was its most ordered dessert, while Aseer Time’s Einstein milkshake was ordered two times more than the runner-up milkshake flavour, Hardee’s hand-scooped vanilla.

2020 was also the year that people got experimentative with what they were eating, perhaps owing to travel restrictions. For instance, Deliveroo found that a whopping 92 per cent of its customers tried a new cuisine last year, with 44 per cent trying Indian food for the first time in 2020, followed by American cuisine (38per cent), Chinese takeaway (34 per cent) and Italian (27 per cent). For all of that, the most popular pizza toppings were distinctly un-Italian, with Talabat reporting that creamy ranch, fiery peri and chipotle barbecue were the top three pizza choices in 2020.

Ordering in aside, the pandemic prompted many to try their hand at cooking. Of the 1,000-plus respondents surveyed by Deliveroo, 43 per cent attempted to make homemade pasta and 31 per cent tried their hand at homemade whipped coffee. Baking proved to be popular pastime, with 28 per cent of the surveyed participants, particularly between the ages of 25 and 34, opting to make banana bread.

Home cooking was a largely close-knit affair, though, with the majority of respondents stating that they celebrated special occasions by ordering food online, making it their most popular “reason to order” for the year.

Another interesting trend that emerged from the Deliveroo survey was a change in people’s eating timings, with roughly a third of UAE respondents reporting that they ate breakfast earlier in 2020, but dinner and lunch were consumed later than usual. This is one trend that’s slated to change, though, as more people express a desire to eat all three meals earlier in 2021, in a bid to be more disciplined and health-conscious.

Clean eating is the overarching trend for 2021. Photo: Pixabay   
Clean eating is the overarching trend for 2021. Photo: Pixabay   

Anis Harb, general manager of Deliveroo GCC, says: “Food trends in 2020 were reflective of the nature of the year itself. However, 2021 shows a clear preference from UAE residents for a more ethical dining lifestyle.” Accordingly, the platform is declaring clean eating as the biggest food trend of 2021, based on the following statistics gleaned from its survey:

  • 45% of the 1000+ UAE residents surveyed will aim to cut down on food waste
  • 43% believe sustainable foods will be evermore important
  • 29% predict the demand for vegan food will grow
  • 28% say they will continue to support the trend for choosing local produce
  • 36% are in favour of seasonal vegetables and menus