Chowbus Report: 2020's Biggest Trends in Asian Food

Chowbus Report: 2020's Biggest Trends in Asian Food

December 24, 2020
2020 Chowbus Report

2020 was a year unlike any other. In March, the world changed as the pandemic took hold. Restaurant workers and delivery drivers emerged as some of the biggest heroes, helping us stay home and stay safe. To them, we say thank you - for keeping us safe, well-fed, and delivering some of our most joyous moments of the year. 

With all the changes of this past year, some new trends and ordering habits developed. We took a look at what Chowbus users have been devouring during the pandemic. These findings, based on millions of orders, reveal a few fascinating trends from the past year and forecast a strong winter for Asian cuisine.

Major North American Trends: A New Focus on Lunch

To no one’s surprise, order sizes increased during the pandemic. Average order sizes sustained a 25% increase from March to present, as compared to January and February of 2020. 

With office workers confined to their homes for much of this year, Chowbus saw a rise in lunch traffic: the most popular time to place an order in 2020 was 12:00pm.

In addition, the average lunch order frequency by user increased 144% between April 1, 2020 and November 30, 2020, compared to the pre-pandemic average.

For those who are curious about regional preferences, Chowbus users’ favorite cuisine of 2020 was Sichuan, followed by Korean, and Hunan.

Sichuan is the most popular Asian cuisine

In the Battle of Rice vs. Noodles, Rice Won in a Landslide

Rice dishes trumped noodle orders by 52%. If that’s not impressive enough, Chowbus also reports that restaurants used nearly 8.73 tons of raw rice to make the fried rice sold through their platform in the past year.

The Biggest Spenders

The most money spent on a single order in 2020 was $2,803, which included 145 different selections from Royce Chocolate. If you’re looking for recommendations, their top flavor picks were matcha and Champagne Pierre Mignon.

Perhaps more impressively, there was also one customer who made more orders than anyone else: this big spender placed 624 orders between January 1, 2020 and December 14, 2020. Because we know you’re wondering, their total bill for the year was $24,816.07, which means that their average price per order was $39.76.

The Most Popular Dish of 2020

With triple the order volume of any other dish on Chowbus, milk tea was the most popular dish of 2020 on the platform, with over 500,000 milk tea orders. It was particularly beloved in Champaign, Seattle, and Vancouver, where in addition to being the most popular dish in the city, it was the top late night order.

Boba Tea is the most popular Asian delivery dish

By city, the most popular dishes were:

  • Boston: Milk tea

  • Champaign: Milk tea

  • Chicago: Kabobs

  • Houston: Kabobs

  • Los Angeles: LadyM (Mille Crepes)

  • New York: Dim sum

  • Philadelphia: Mala soup

  • San Francisco: Kabobs

  • Seattle: Lunch combos

  • Silicon Valley: Kabobs

  • Toronto: Dim sum

  • Vancouver: Milk tea

Late Night Snacks in San Francisco & Silicon Valley

In San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the most popular dish of the year was skewers, but there was one distinct difference between customer behavior down in the valley and up in the city by the bay.

While orders after 8:00pm increased 13% during the pandemic in San Francisco, Silicon Valley orders increased by 99% in the same period of time.

What were these night owls eating? The most late night orders in both locations were from BBQ restaurants.

Most Popular Grocery Delivery Ingredients by Month

We all appreciate hot pot in the cold winter months and do our best to eat more BBQ and vegetables when the outdoors is more hospitable. The data on popular grocery delivery ingredients bears this out, with a focus on fatty sliced beef in the deep of winter and spare ribs in the spring and summer.

Here are the most popular grocery ingredients delivered to Chowbus shopper by month:

Most popular grocery ingredients of 2020

In the early months of the pandemic in North America, Chowbus customers’ frozen dumpling orders jumped. In fact, grocery orders for frozen dumplings spiked by 1,538% in March and April when compared to January and February.

But not all demand was unpredictable. On Chinese New Year, January 25th, customers couldn't celebrate with enough dumplings. The stuffed delights were the most commonly ordered food around that holiday, and most customers added milk tea to their purchase for a little added sweetness.

As we look to the coming Chinese New Year celebration this February, we expect to see similar trends in dumplings orders. And in the cold months until then, we expect to see continued and increasing enthusiasm for fatty sliced beef for customers’ winter hot pots.

A note on methodology: Chowbus used order data from 01/01/20 to 11/30/20 to create this report. The term “pre-pandemic” refers to data from 01/01/20 to 03/31/20, while the “pandemic” orders were counted from 04/01/20 to 11/30/20.