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Foodservice Lunch Continues to Slump


In the wake of slower growth in U.S. restaurant sales, Bloomberg and many other industry watchers see lunch as a particularly painful point.

NPD sales research suggests that lunch, which accounts for a third of restaurant traffic, ­showed a 4 percent decline in visits during the three months that ended in June 2016, compared with the same period a year ago. This is the sharpest decline for any time of day, and it’s just one sign of how lunch patterns everywhere are experiencing some big shifts thanks to anytime eating/snacking, telecommuting, and on-site workers who eat at their desks. Weekday lunch traffic recently fell 7 percent, reports NPD.

But restaurant pain can mean grocery store gains. Prices are falling in retail food settings, and shoppers are finding high quality, better variety and more prepared food options. Jeremy McAdow, retail manager for deli, bakery, franchise at SpartanNash, the fifth-largest food distributor in the United States, notes that grocery stores have an opportunity to be grab-and-go central.

“Lunch is all about convenience—and for many customers, finding healthy options. You win the lunch customer by providing them with a good assortment of quick solutions that give them choice, and get them going. Shoppers running in at lunchtime are looking for quick grab-and-go solutions, and more than ever, customers are utilizing a grab-and-go solution over anything requiring service,” says McAdow, who urges retailers to have on-the-go lunch options ready early in the day to capture customers stopping in before work.

Beyond grab-and-go, supermarkets can also appeal to shoppers who are planning lunch for the week during a big shopping trip.

“Typically, these customers have a specific diet they will follow throughout the week,” notes McAdow. “[They] will spend more time shopping multiple departments and piecing meal options together. This customer is also more willing to spend additional time in preparing the meals they eat.”

Grocerant-Ready Ideas:

  • Easy lunch bundles with a variety of packaged snacks and drinks
  • Extra staff at the sandwich counter for time-crunched lunch traffic
  • Customization stations so customers can finish dishes to their own tastes
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