Business

The lunch rush is dead as Americans live for the weekend

More and more consumers are saving their work lunch money to spend when they are off duty.

The rise of hybrid working has prevented many bars and restaurants from returning to pre-pandemic levels during the lunch break, according to data released Tuesday by digital payments platform Square.

But while weekday transaction volumes from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. were down 3.3% last year compared to 2019, card charges jumped 4.2% on weekends and 0.3 % during weekday happy hours from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Square data comes as foot traffic rebounds Downtown areas of major U.S. cities are much faster on evenings and weekends than on business days, University of Toronto researchers have found.

These signs point to a new normal for Americans’ post-pandemic leisure spending, which has remained resilient despite the higher costs of going out. Fast food chains are launching promotions to attract customers put off by rising prices, and alcohol brands are pushing canned cocktails as bar and restaurant menu tabs rise faster than grocery bills .

This is the biggest transformation of the last four or five years: the spending habits of office workers.

Ara Kharazian, Head of Research at Square

Still, many consumers remain determined to splurge after unplugging from work.

“This has been the biggest transformation of the last four or five years: the spending habits of office workers,” said Ara Kharazian, head of research at Square, which provides electronic payment systems used by many bars, restaurants and shops. “But this money has gone elsewhere: we see that consumers spend money on weekends instead.”

Brunch is driving much of the weekend surge, Kharazian said. In 2023, 1.88% of food and beverage transactions processed by Square occurred between 11 a.m. and noon on Saturdays, compared to 1.60% in 2019. Since the company analyzed transaction volumes rather than dollar amounts, its data reflects foot traffic rather than inflation. sensitive expenses.

Still, part of the shift may have to do with consumers going where the deals are, said Sara Senatore, senior restaurant analyst at Bank of America.

“Brunch is much more affordable than dinner because people still want to go out to eat,” she said. “They still want the experience, they still want to get together with their friends and family.”

AJ Kurban, CEO of Aceituna Grill.Courtesy of CRJP

Nowhere has the shift toward evening and weekend spending been more pronounced than in Boston, one of 23 major cities analyzed by Square. There, a 10.1% decline in weekday lunch transactions was more than offset by increases of 10.3% and 1.6% in weekend and happy hour transactions, respectively.

Aceituna Grill, a fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant in Boston, has seen lunch attendance decline at the three locations it has operated since before the pandemic, particularly those near Bank of America and PwC offices, according to the CEO AJ Kurban.

“Before, we had a queue out the door every day. Now we are lucky to have a line two to three days a week,” Kurban said. Last year, sales at all three restaurants were down at least 20% compared to 2019.

Aceituna, which accepts digital payments on Toast but not on Square, has tried to chase away weekend crowds to make up for the decline. He opened a fourth restaurant in the tourist-heavy Back Bay shopping district about a year ago and began keeping his Seaport location open on Sundays starting this month.

This latest move was partly to comply with updated leasing terms, and while Kurban said it was too early to say how profitable it would be, he “expects a positive impact.” At the Back Bay outpost, he added, “the weekends and nights are definitely a lot busier there than any of our other locations.”

As more consumers opt for homemade lunches over $16 takeout salads, “restaurants are constantly trying to find things to attract more people on weekends,” said Soojin Lee, a professor at the Nolan School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, which focuses on restaurant and kitchen management. Young consumers eager to socialize are a prime target for bars and restaurants looking to attract crowds on evenings and weekends, she said.

Some establishments are doing better than others as consumption habits evolve. Fast-casual brands like Sweetgreen and Chipotle have seen stronger business this year than most in the restaurant industry. While diners on tight budgets have been reluctant to pay higher prices at fast food chains, those with more to spend on eating out aren’t holding back.

Weekends and nights are definitely much busier.

AJ Kurban, CEO of Aceituna Grill

“Their spending looks positive based on what restaurants are saying. They’re actually seeing traffic growth in those cohorts,” Senatore said of wealthier customers, “whereas among lower-income consumers you start to see traffic decline.”

Only one major market bucked the trend identified by Square: in heavily residential Brooklyn – less known for its lunch rush than office-filled Manhattan – midday spending fell a modest 0.3%, but transactions of the weekend were still 0.5% lower than before rounding. pandemic level as well. And unlike most other cities, happy hours have declined slightly in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Kharazian noted, however, that the changes were minimal and attributed New York’s anomalies in part to the rhythms of the city that never sleeps, “where people go out at all hours, so happy hours don’t necessarily have that importance”.

However, not everyone spends a lot of money in the evenings and weekends.

“I definitely spend a lot more money on work lunches,” said Nicholas Louie, 25, an advertising associate for a marketing agency who lives and works in Manhattan, where Square has found that lunch transactions are in decline. drop of 3.3% since before Covid.

He estimates he spends between $15 and $20 a day on lunch, a bit more than in previous years, although his costs vary depending on whether he’s at home or in the office, where he works twice a week.

“I don’t really prioritize weekday drinking,” Louie said, and his weekend leisure spending “is pretty inconsistent.”

But his employer’s amenities also help keep his bar tab low.

“I have free alcohol in the office,” he added.

News Source : www.nbcnews.com
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Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe. Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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