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Lunch Traffic Continues to Soften

Foodservice lunch posted consecutively steeper declines over the past six months, per NPD Data.

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 ongoing foodservice market research from The NPD Group.

Traditional quick service restaurants represent the only industry segments not losing visits, per NPD. Casual dining and fast casual, a quick service category, restaurants saw traffic declines of 6 percent and 9 percent respectively for the fiscal quarter ending in June 2016. In addition, weekday foodservice lunch visits declined by 7 percent.

The impetus behind the decline? NPD’s attributes some of the softening lunchtime traffic to the rise in employees working at home and more shopping online, which cuts down on foodservice meal and snack breaks. These areas have seen increases of 24 percent and 8 percent in the past year.

Relatively recent menu price hikes have only worsened the situation. Average lunch checks in the quarter ending June 2016 increased by as much as 5 percent in some restaurant segments compared to the same quarter year ago.

To offset slower traffic and higher prices, many operators continue to turn to aggressive dealing, like combo and value meal offerings at quick service hamburger restaurants. These steps, per NPD, have prevented steeper lunch visit declines. NPD, quickly adds, 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.