Making good decisions requires people to appropriately explore their available options and generalize what they have learned. While computational models have successfully explained exploratory behavior in constrained laboratory tasks, it is unclear to what extent these models generalize to complex real world choice problems. We investigate the factors guiding exploratory
behavior in a data set consisting of 195,333 customers placing 1,613,967 orders from a large online food delivery service (the UK-based company Deliveroo). We find important hallmarks of adaptive exploration and generalization, which we analyze using computational models. We find evidence for several theoretical predictions: (1) customers engage in uncertainty-directed exploration, (2) they adjust their level of exploration to the average restaurant quality in a city, and (3) they use feature-based generalization to guide exploration towards promising restaurants. These results provide new evidence that people use sophisticated strategies to explore complex, real-world environments.