Habitual Lunch Consumers Help Operators Boost Their Bottom Lines

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In recent years, the lunch daypart has struggled in Canada, experiencing consistent traffic declines since 2011 as consumers continue to spend less per capita and buy fewer items at each visit (see chart below). This is further compounded by the fact that, in Canada, lunch is the most commonly skipped meal of the day. However, in the face of this adversity there exists a distinct and valuable demographic of Canadians — a group that’s habitually out to lunch.

But who is this habitual lunch consumer? According to the NPD Group’s “Habitual Lunch Report,” this consumer is part of a growing group of approximately 21 per cent of the population that visit QSR, fast-casual or HMR for lunch eight times or more on weekdays within a four-week period.

According to the report, habitual lunch consumers tend to over-index among millennials, males and Ontario residents. They are also more likely to come from households with kids. These individuals are extremely valuable to operators as they tend to spend more at QSR lunch visits (approximately $10.50 per visit), which is at the higher end of the QSR lunch spending range.

What Drives the Habitual Lunch Consumer?
The habitual lunch consumer is driven by a number of factors, including quality and convenience. The latter is evident by the fact that approximately one in five habitual lunch orders are made at a drive-thru. Furthermore, among the in-restaurant customers, approximately 20 per cent opt to carry-out as opposed to eating in. Time is of the essence for these individuals and they are willing to spend, on average, only 6.5 minutes travelling (walking or driving) to get lunch.

The report also suggests a variance in price sensitivity among these consumers; however; the overall pattern of findings shows nearly 75 per cent of habitual lunch consumers are, in fact, somewhat price sensitive. That said, despite being price-sensitive, most habitual lunch consumers don’t have a monthly
lunch budget.

Winning Over the Habitual Lunch Consumer
While lunch, as a daypart, has been somewhat challenged in recent years, winning over the habitual lunch consumer represents a significant opportunity for operators looking to boost their bottom lines. The odds of attracting these consumers can be improved by considering loyalty programs, combo innovation, food freshness and portable food options.

More than anything, these tactics are consistent with consumer demand for value, quick and easy options and high-quality, fresh ingredients. By implementing some of these tactics, savvy operators can increase the likelihood of winning over the habitual lunch consumer, and, increasing growth in an otherwise challenged daypart.

Volume 49, Number 1

Written By: Robert Carter

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