Study suggests increased UK takeaway habits survived pandemic

Our appetite for delivered fast food saw a huge spike during lockdowns and the pandemic. However, new research suggests that the public never stopped, as numbers remain high years after COVID19’s peak.

Thred Media
3 min readApr 14, 2024


Were you guilty of one too many takeaways during the pandemic?

It seems that many of us in the UK increased our junk food habits amidst lockdowns and COVID19 restrictions, with platforms such as Just Eat, Deliveroo, and Uber Eats enjoying a rise in orders during the pandemic.

Now, according to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), it seems that the public’s taste for high-calorie takeaway grub has endured well beyond social distancing. IFS suggests that food-on-the-go and meal delivery orders have remained above pre-2020 levels, even with restaurants re-opening and previous government schemes such as ‘Eat Out to Help Out’.

Data was analysed by thousands of consumers. IFS says that calorie consumption from takeaway food increased by over 50% at the height of COVID19 and has continued to stay high ever since; it seems more of us are opting for nights in rather than pubs and fine dining.

There is some concern that this change in habits could have long-term effects on the country’s health and weight. The UK already has notably high rates of poor health, with just under 64% of adults aged 18 or over estimated to be ‘overweight or living with obesity’.

The study was funded by the Obesity Policy Research Unit at University College London. It estimates that before the pandemic, UK adults consumed an average of 270 calories per week from takeaways. That number increased to 395 during 2020.

There has since been a decline from that peak number, but it has not returned to 270 calories. In 2021, calorie consumption via takeaways grew to 470 per week, as more eateries utilised takeaway models from apps to generate income during lockdowns that lasted months.

In 2022, the number shrank down to 400 calories per week, but this is still 50% above pre-pandemic levels. Researchers say this was the most recent data they were able to examine, and does not factor in the UK’s cost-of-living crisis, which may have dampened our excitement for expensive deliveries since then.

How about our grocery shopping? In much the same way, the UK saw their average household food shop basket size increase in 2020, but decrease the following year.

However, overall calorie purchasing numbers did return to pre-pandemic levels, meaning that the increase in takeaways has likely affected in-person dining at coffee shops, pubs, and restaurants.

What’s caused our prolonged desire for takeaway food and deliveries to our homes?

For one, our time has become less spontaneous in general since COVID. More bookings and tickets are required for eating out or attending events, and we have increased our tendency to make plans ahead of time rather than as we leave our homes.

It may also simply be that we are more familiar and comfortable with our local favourites than pre-pandemic, and are more accustomed to nights in that when we were prior. With more of us working from home on a hybrid or totally remote basis, our daily lives are no longer strictly and absolutely separated into home, work, and leisure.

It’s all a bit more jumbled, which means we may also feel it acceptable to have our weekend down time inside. Less pressure to be out and busy is less money spent in diners and pubs.

Still, we don’t have the most up-to-date information or stats just yet. It’s possible that a huge increase in food costs has put some of us off takeaway food and forced us to budget, which may have ripple effects. We’ll have to wait and see what the damage is.

Originally written by Charlie Coombs for Thred.