The lunch market in the restaurant industry is worth about $114 billion. Depending on the sector a restaurant operates in, lunch can comprise between 20% and 40% of revenue. Consumers say they eat out for lunch more than for any other meal – an average of 2.6 lunches a week when both carryout and dining in are counted. But many operators would still like to boost their lunch traffic.
Part of the challenge is to offer the kind of food consumers are looking for. A new LivingSocial survey reveals that consumers have preferences when they are going out to eat:
- Meat lovers 22%
- Sweet tooth 22%
- Fast food junkies 19%
- Health nuts 18%
- Vegetarians/vegans 5%
And Technomic finds that lunch marketers may need to adjust their promotional messages to appeal to specific age groups. For example, the group most likely to eat out for lunch is the Millennials (ages 18–34). This group is all about value pricing. Baby Boomers also eat out, but their idea of value is finding healthy foods. There’s little question that the continuing economic turmoil is prompting consumers to bring lunch to work more frequently while others are eating a snack instead. For about 4% of consumers, the mobile food truck makes the perfect place to purchase lunch or a snack.
To compete in the lunch market, operators should promote mini-meals – especially those perceived to be healthy. In addition, while almost half of consumers stick with the same restaurants for lunch, new operators could lure them with “fast, portable, inexpensive options” as well as a wide variety of foods. Restaurants should also consider adjusting their promotional messages for weekend lunches – that’s when consumers are more interested in customization and fresh preparation according to Technomic.[ Sources: "Lunch Trends in the U.S. Foodservice Market." Packaged Facts. 8 Sept. 2010. Web. 22 Sept. 2010; Dining Out. LivingSocial.com. 15 Sep. 2011. Web. 26 Sep. 2011; Lunch motivations and behavior. Technomic.com. 20 Sep 2011. Web. 22 Sep. 2011]