Consumers Working from Home Not Working for Restaurants
According to the U.S. Census, 13.4 million people in 2010 worked at least one day at home per week, an increase of more than 4 million people (35 percent) over the course of a decade. At the same time, our National Eating Trends® (NET®) data shows more lunches are being sourced from and consumed in the home.
The average number of lunches per capita prepared and eaten in the home grew from 139 in 2006 to 156 in 2016. In the same time period, the number of carried-from-home lunches declined from 46 to 42. With the home becoming the workplace for a growing number of American workers, we’re seeing a related shift at foodservice: a reduced need for restaurants in people’s daily lives.
Since food consumption is often a zero-sum game, meaning a growing behavior in one area is often at the expense of another, certain segments of restaurants are seeing a corresponding decline in traffic. Overall foodservice traffic is down 4 percent at lunchtime in the latest quarter ending June 2016 versus the same quarter year ago. This decline is driven mostly by casual dining and fast casual (a quick service category) restaurants where traffic was down in the quarter ending June compared to same quarter last year, by 6 percent and 9 respectively.
As more consumers are choosing to prepare and consume their lunches in the home we’re also observing changes in what makes it on the plate. While sandwiches are still the top item consumed at this midday meal the type of sandwich is experiencing slow but steady shifts. For example, while peanut butter and jelly and ham sandwiches are the most commonly consumed sandwiches, their share has dipped; cheese and other cold cuts have taken share. There are also shifting preferences for the breads that surround the sandwich filling. White bread has been used less often, and in its place we’ve seen more whole wheat bread, tortillas, and buns/rolls.
For marketers involved with lunchtime products, make sure you’re moving with the consumers who are working from home. Just because more consumers are using their homes as their offices, it doesn’t mean they’re spending more time in the kitchen to make lunch. Lunches are still motivated by speed and simplicity since these people need to get back to work just like anyone in a traditional workplace.