Recent Menu Price Hikes, More Telecommuters, and Shopping Online Contribute to Foodservice Lunch Visit Declines

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Foodservice lunch, which accounts for a third of all foodservice traffic, has posted consecutively steeper declines over the past six months, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. The rise in employees working at home and more shopping online, which cuts down on foodservice meal and snack breaks, have been contributors to the softening of lunch traffic and recent menu price hikes have steepened lunch visit declines.

Simply said, who can afford to go out lunch on a regular basis when checks have risen for some as much as they have recently,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD Group, restaurant industry analyst.

Foodservice lunch, which accounts for a third of all foodservice traffic, has posted consecutively steeper declines over the past six months, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. In the quarter ending June 2016, lunch visits declined by 4 percent compared to same quarter year ago, the steepest decline of all main meal dayparts, according to NPD Group’s ongoing foodservice market research. The rise in employees working at home and more shopping online, which cuts down on foodservice meal and snack breaks, have been contributors to the softening of lunch traffic and recent menu price hikes have steepened lunch visit declines.

All restaurant segments, with the exception of traditional quick service restaurants (QSRs), are losing visits, finds NPD Group. This is particularly true of casual dining and fast casual (a quick service category) restaurants where traffic was down in the quarter ending June compared to same quarter last year by 6 percent and 9 percent respectively. Weekday foodservice lunch visits declined by 7 percent.

Foodservice lunch, especially weekday visits, has already been negatively impacted by a 24 percent increase over the last decade in the number of people working from home and an 8 percent increase over the last year in online shopping. Relatively recent menu price hikes have only worsened the situation. A pricing analysis done by NPD Group finds that the price point at which consumers are most satisfied and most likely to visit is when they feel it is “affordable to eat there often,” and “good value for the money.” Average lunch eater checks in the quarter ending June 2016, which at some restaurant segments have increased by as much as 5 percent compared to the same quarter year ago, have moved upward beyond consumers’ “sweet spot” price, diminishing customer satisfaction and their intent to visit.

There has been aggressive dealing, like combo and value meal offerings at quick service hamburger restaurants, and the dealing has prevented steeper lunch visit declines; however, NPD Group's foodservice market research shows that only about a fourth of lunch customers took advantage of the deals. With deal traffic removed from the lunch check, consumers are paying, on average, $8.00 dollars for lunch, which is higher than most want to pay for a quick service lunch.

“Simply said, who can afford to go out lunch on a regular basis when checks have risen for some as much as they have recently,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD Group, restaurant industry analyst. “Historically, foodservice lunch has been the occasion where consumers didn’t want to invest a lot time, money, or energy into this meal. It’s apparent by the drop in lunch traffic that the current value proposition isn’t meeting these needs.”    
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About The NPD Group, Inc.
The NPD Group provides market information and business solutions that drive better decision-making and better results. The world’s leading brands rely on us to help them get the right products in the right places for the right people. Practice areas include apparel, appliances, automotive, beauty, consumer electronics, diamonds, e-commerce, entertainment, fashion accessories, food consumption, foodservice, footwear, home, mobile, office supplies, retail, sports, technology, toys, video games, and watches / jewelry. For more information, visit npd.com and npdgroupblog.com. Follow us on Twitter: @npdgroup

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Kim McLynn
The NPD Group
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