Pizza. Burgers. Chicken. Curry. Noodles. Sushi. Burritos. Pasta. We always knew that kids and teens love a takeaway, but our latest research reveals that young people in the UK are now spending on popular food delivery apps like UberEats, Deliveroo and Just Eat – with even our youngest members using their pocket money to have their favourite meals and snacks brought directly to their door.
In fact, kids and teens are spending more on food delivery than they are in almost any other restaurant or cafe – becoming a generation of ‘Appy Eaters.’
Louise Hill, CEO and co-founder of GoHenry says: “While older generations might be surprised to see that young people are now choosing to spend their pocket money on food delivery, it’s clear that this has become an important part of their social lives – whether that means they’re sharing a meal with friends or simply sharing photographs of their delivery on social media. Where previous generations might have treated themselves to sweets at the corner shop, Gen Z and Gen Alpha are digital natives who are increasingly likely to order via an app and have their favourite snacks delivered to their door.”
In the last year, GoHenry kids in the UK, aged 6-18 spent a grand total of £7.85 million on their top three food delivery apps: Just Eat, UberEats, and Deliveroo. When we look at how much they’re spending per order, kids who use one of these food delivery apps spent the most on Deliveroo with an average transaction of £18.45, followed by Just Eat at £16.88, and UberEats at £16.33. In addition, they spent £1.22 million at Dominos, where their average transaction came in at £16.10.*
Admittedly, young people’s spending in this category is much lower than adults. For context, in 2021, the average UK adult spent a total of £641 on takeaways. Our data reveals that 12-year-olds (who spent at one of the merchants we selected) spent an average of £47 at Deliveroo last year, along with £46 at UberEats, £42 at Just Eat, and £21 at Dominos. These figures rise steadily with age, peaking at the age of 18, when teenagers who spent at these merchants racked up an average of £91 at Just Eat, £85 at Deliveroo, £77 at UberEats, and £42 at Dominos.* Given that children and teenagers will have the majority of their meals at home or paid for by their parents, the fact that they’re paying for food delivery from a young age gives us a fascinating insight into their spending priorities.
For this generation of Appy Eaters, food isn’t simply fuel: it’s an event to be enjoyed with friends, discussed, photographed and shared on social media – even when they’re eating alone.
Generational expert Dr Eliza Filby told us, “These kids are interested in food: experimenting with food, the social aspect of food, talking about food, reading about food – as well as veganism and food production. I think it’s partly because their parents were the first generation to really start watching cookery shows and following writers like Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson – the food revolution was very much a late 90s thing, so they’ve grown up with foodie culture.”
Ever since the pandemic, food delivery has been big business. The UK market size of online food ordering and delivery platforms increased by an average of 35% per year between 2017 and 2022, and UberEats is now the UK’s second most downloaded food app, second only to Tesco, with around 3.5 million downloads last year. This was closely followed by Deliveroo, with around 3 million downloads.
While they’re most popular with time-poor adults, kids and teens are also drawn to the convenience of food apps. Research from Direct Line Insurance identified that one in three under 18s are using food delivery services at least once a week, while research from BBC Good Food found that 16-24-year-olds were spending more on food than any other age group – largely due to their love of takeaway deliveries and eating out.
Food delivery apps offer a world of choice that didn’t exist for previous generations of kids and teens – and they offer fast delivery. This level of convenience is second nature for Gen Z and Gen Alpha, who have grown up with smartphones and online shopping and are accustomed to ordering whatever they want, whenever they want it.
Consequently, when they’re away from home, young people’s top choices are also based on speedy service. When they’re not ordering on apps, they head to McDonald’s, Greggs and KFC, where they can choose to grab a table and eat in with friends or take their food away.
Research from the US identified that teenagers aren’t keen on restaurants with table service, which requires them to interact with waiting staff and wait for their food to be served. Instead, they prefer chains like McDonald’s, Greggs, KFC, Starbucks and Costa – the top five among GoHenry kids and teens – where they can order at the counter, on touchscreens, or via an app.
This chimes with GoHenry data: in the last year, GoHenry kids aged 6-18 who spent at McDonalds (which pioneered touch screen ordering in the UK back in 2015) spent an average of £28 over the year; those who spent at Greggs averaged £11 per year; those who spent at KFC spent an average of £17; and those who spent at Starbucks averaged £14 across the year; with an average of £12 per year for those who spent at Costa*. Their average transaction amount comes in at around £5-£6, except at Greggs, where they typically spend less than £3 per visit. These are notably smaller amounts than when they use food delivery apps, which often specify minimum order amounts or add a surcharge for low-value orders.
It’s reassuring to know that kids and teens can use their GoHenry card to buy food when they’re away from home or get a delivery from time to time. But if you’re concerned that they’re spending too much on convenience food, it’s easy to set spending rules and limits within your parent app. This means you can set a spending limit on transactions or even block some transactions – such as online spending or ATM withdrawals – on a temporary or permanent basis.
You’ll also get an instant notification every time they use their card, so you’ll know if the real reason that they can’t eat their dinner is because they filled up on snacks after school. This makes it far easier to support their independence and allows them to make their own spending decisions while also keeping an eye on their Bubble Tea consumption.
* Data based on a sample of over 1 million UK children aged 6-18, with GoHenry memberships, who were active between 31 October 2022 and 1 November 2023.