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For restaurants like McDonald's, delivery hasn't stopped customers from eating in

  • Data insight firm Sense360 determines that delivery orders at restaurants are not cannibalizing in-store orders.
  • In fact, third-party delivery services have created new occasions for diners to purchase foods from these restaurants.
  • Sense360's CEO Eli Portnoy says the data should "encourage" restaurants like McDonald's that have invested heavily in delivery.
A McDonald's Corp. Big Mac is displayed on a page of the McDonald's app.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A McDonald's Corp. Big Mac is displayed on a page of the McDonald's app.

Turns out all those late night deliveries haven't stopped customers from walking into their local McDonald's.

As restaurant chains have prioritized delivery initiatives, many investors have voiced concerns that delivery orders would replace in-store visits from diners.

But, that isn't the case, according to Sense360, a data insights firm.

Diners still went to restaurants at the same frequency as they had before downloading a third-party delivery app, Sense360 CEO Eli Portnoy said.

Sense360 looked at more than 21 million anonymous visits to sit-down and quick-service restaurants in the 90 days before and the 90 days after a customer downloaded a third-party app such as Postmates, GrubHub or UberEats.

"What we found is that once I download the app, there isn't any change in my visit pattern," Portnoy told CNBC. "Which means any order that I place through Door Dash, Postmates or any third-party delivery app is incremental and not cannibalizing my future business to that restaurant."

In fact, the third-party delivery services have created new occasions for diners to purchase foods from the restaurants. Not only are customers browsing third-party delivery apps and trying new, local restaurants, but they are also choosing delivery at times that they wouldn't normally be able to go to a restaurant.

"Basically, someone might be at the office, they might not have time to go to a restaurant, so they wouldn't have gone, and now they have the opportunity to have the food brought to them," Portnoy said. "So, it's creating this new occasion or this new opportunity to then get food when they otherwise wouldn't have."

Portnoy said that this data should "encourage" restaurants like McDonald's that have invested heavily in delivery. The Golden Arches said in late May that it expects that its partnership with UberEats will expand to more than 3,500 locations by the end of June.

McDonald's began testing its delivery service in Florida in December. By May, the service was available at 1,000 locations.

However, Portnoy noted that Sense360's study only looks at the short term. It is possible that in the long term, some restaurants might see a slight gradual decline in in-store visits.

Sense360's study was conducted from June 2016 through April 2017.