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Food-service lunch visit declines in U.S.: NPD Group


September 13, 2016
By Canadian Pizza

Chicago – Food-service lunch, which accounts for a third of all food-service traffic in the U.S., has posted consecutively steeper declines over the past six months, the NPD Group reports. 

In the quarter ending June 2016, lunch visits declined by four per cent compared to same quarter year ago, the steepest decline of all main meal dayparts, according to NPD’s research.

The rise in employees working at home and more shopping online, which cuts down on food-service meal and snack breaks, have been contributors to the softening of lunch traffic and recent menu price hikes have steepened lunch visit declines, the NPD Group’s research suggests. All restaurant segments, with the exception of traditional quick-service restaurants, are losing visits, finds NPD. 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. Weekday food-service lunch visits declined by seven per cent. 

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. 

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The research says deal offers have prevented steeper lunch visit declines; however, it says that only about a fourth of lunch customers took advantage of aggressive dealing, like combo and value meal offerings at quick-service hamburger restaurants. With deal traffic removed from the lunch check, consumers are paying, on average, $8 US dollars for lunch, which is higher than most want to pay for a quick-service lunch.