NEW YORK — Consumer spending on lunch served in restaurants is forecast to rebound 2% in 2011 and reach $114 billion following two years of recession-related declines, according to “Lunch Trends in the U.S. Foodservice Market,” a report produced by research publisher Packaged Facts. After rising to $119 billion in 2008, lunch daypart sales declined 4% in 2009, and sales are projected to fall another 3% in 2010 to $112 billion.
“This has been a very tough climate for lunch food service and its counterparts, and that won’t change overnight although change is coming," said Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts. “Growth in the lunch daypart still faces a few near-term challenges, including the impact of unemployment on work-driven restaurant routines, bargain-minded consumers who weigh the cost of a bagged lunch against the indulgence of eating out, and an industry environment in which players are chasing foot traffic at the expense of guest check through the extreme push of value meal deals.”
A survey of consumers conducted by Packaged Facts showed that interest in lunchtime meals priced under $5 and under $10 is stable across household income brackets, suggesting price sensitivity among a large segment of diners regardless of their personal wages. Respondents aged 18 to 24 are 60% more likely than average to choose a restaurant because it offers meals for under $3.
Limited time offers and menu options that allow consumers to bundle their meal components for a set price are two menu strategies that have proven attractive to consumers, according to Packaged Facts. Examples cited in the report include Taco Bell’s $2 Meal Deal and Jack in the Box’s Pick 3 for $3 customizable limited time offer value meal.