As many Americans stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, a large percentage are doing so alone. In recent years, the number of people living alone in America has been on the rise. According to U.S. Census data, 36 million people lived in single-person households in 2019, making up 28.4% of all households. That compares to just 16.7% of people who lived alone in 1969.
Our Insight to Action data shows those eating solo may create different eating habits during those occasions than during other dining occasions. Social distancing is further changing solo dining habits, as many people are connecting with others virtually, through YouTube, Google Hangouts, and Zoom or Skype meetings. Virtual dinner parties or happy hours are on the rise.
In a normal environment, the Solo Cravings dinner occasion makes up about 10% of all dinner occasions. Speed, minimal effort and convenience tend to be the focus, so these dinners include prepared meats, deli meats, pizza and pasta more frequently than other dining occasions. More than a third (35%) of Solo Cravings dishes include prepared meats, and pepperoni, pork deli meat and bacon all overindex. This dinner occasion is also likely to include takeout options.
There’s a lot that retailers and food service operators can do to help solo eaters plan their at-home meals during this time:
- Think about grab-and-go options that customers can add to their cart when shopping, especially options that will last a few days in the fridge for those shopping less often.
- Showcase heat-and-eat options, such as cooked ribs with sauce or pulled pork for sandwiches.
- Highlight quicker-cooking options like ground pork, which could be used for stir fry, rice bowls or tacos.
- Emphasize the opportunity to cook once and freeze leftovers. Options like pork shoulder can be cooked in the slow cooker or instant pot and used across multiple meal options from tacos and burritos to pizza and salad.
- Tell consumers how they can upgrade – instead of franks on the grill, offer tasty value-added sausage that’s still easy to cook but adds a different flavor to the weekly menu.
- Foodservice operators offering takeout can offer a package of several days of meals that can be easily heated at home.
- Foodservice operators can also consider incentives to reward solo diners or ensure future orders through promotions. For example, Chipotle launched “Chipotle Together” sessions on Zoom, featuring lunchtime discussions with celebrities for up to 3,000 fans. Participants receive a free entrée code during the session.
Consumers dining alone at home are doing their part to slow COVID-19. Let’s help them make mealtime easy.
If you don’t have a copy of our Dinner at Home in America report yet, make sure to download it for more at-home eating insights. We’re here to help you navigate this unprecedented time and prepare for what the future holds.
One last note: Be sure to check in on those friends and family who live alone to make sure they’re both physically and mentally well during this time. And wash your hands.