The lunch landscape has changed over the last few years, with everything from healthy trends, delivery dining, cost of living and increased competition all factoring in to our daily lives.
Lunch is certainly an area most restaurants are struggling with at the moment – it’s not that people aren’t eating lunch any more, rather that they’re busier, have different priorities and are finding alternatives to suit their needs.
Healthy eating continues to have an effect on buying behaviors especially on weekdays with more and more people becoming conscious of the way they look and what they are consuming, often opting for low-calorie/protein rich items or vegan dishes. Vegan is an interesting area as it’s become both a trend and a lifestyle, years ago vegan was either unheard of or seen as a bit strange, but nowadays people are taking it seriously and it’s more popular than ever, with vegan diet plans creeping in for non-vegans and vegan restaurants starting to appear in all major cities.
Increased sales of gym memberships and meal plans are also responsible for the decline in lunchtime trade with consumers opting to squeeze a quick session in at lunch and grabbing something quick and easy as a result. Meal plans are no longer just for people dedicated to fitness, they’re becoming popular with busy professionals who don’t have time to dine out or prepare something at home – I see this becoming a much larger sector and an area for restaurants and delivery services to take advantage of over the next decade.
It’s not all healthy; takeaway sales have seen a huge rise over the last two years with people favoring lower costs and the convenience for working meal times around their day – of course we can’t forget the lunch box crew, often a mixture of saving time, money, eating healthy and the convenience of being able to eat wherever or whatever you want.
There’s now a middle ground between leaving the office for lunch and not, and it’s a sector I’m hugely interested in, “delivery-dining” (no one seems to use that phrase, so I’m coining it as my own). Over the past 24 months we’ve seen the explosion of Jumia Food, Yum & UberEATS in to the market, which makes dining at your favorite restaurant without leaving the office a reality. This technology lead sector is growing in popularity and expanding faster than any other F&B concept I’ve ever seen, it’s 100% something I advise every operator should be involved with – I’m particularly interested to follow developments U.S. following Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods earlier this year.
For consumers who are venturing out for lunch the amount of restaurants to choose from is immense, making it difficult for operators to capture covers let alone retain them on a regular basis. In order to maximize on lunch trade it’s crucial to look at what the brand’s target customers need, the product and price points they require and partner with a delivery service to increase accessibility where possible.
Of course with fierce competition come heavy promotions, but I don’t believe every venue should adopt these promos just to get bums on seats. You need to stay true to your brand and not damage your reputation by cheapening it or changing tact too much, that’s why I suggest researching what your customers actually need and work backwards to attract them. Maybe they need speed, so an express menu would be the way forward… maybe you’re a family venue and implementing a kids offer would help attract more clientele… if you’re looking to attract a more premium/occasional crowd, champagne and afternoon tea could do the trick… or at the end of the day, maybe it really is just price – so hit that heavy promotion button and go for gold – but remember even the cheapest restaurant deal in the city isn’t financially viable for most guests on a daily basis, and it’s no fun if you’re not making profit either.