Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) enjoy return to lunch, The NPD Group reports

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Lunch time trade recovery

Lunch time trade recovery

New foodservice industry figures from The NPD Group, a global information company, show an increase in British lunch traffic for YE (Year Ending) March 2013 and a prediction of three years of growing sales for Quick Service Restaurants.

Data from YE March 2009 to YE March 2013 show Out of Home (OOH) foodservice visits at lunchtime recently improved. Since dipping sharply in the period from March 2011 to March 2012, total OOH lunch visits in the following 12 months to March 2013 show a year-on-year (YoY) improvement measured as a % change. The Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) segment has been the early recipient of trade returning to lunch, although the bounce back for pubs has been slower (see chart below).


NPD Group is also forecasting a modest growth of more than 2% YoY sales increase for QSRs in Britain in each of the coming three years – 2013, 2014 and 2015. This follows improvements of 3.6%, 2.0% and 2.2% respectively.

Guy Fielding, director of business development for The NPD Group, said: “Breakfast was a strong theme in 2012 and we saw breakfast and mid-morning snacks taking a bite from lunchtime spend and creating a ‘mid-day dip’. So a clear casualty during the recession, so far as the British foodservice industry is concerned, was the lunchtime occasion. We are now watching lunch closely as we expect this to be the next ‘day part’ to start to recover from the recessionary slump. 

“Lunch does provide a useful clue to how consumers feel about the economy and their willingness to spend. Lunch is typically the first eating-out-of-home occasion to be ‘sacrificed’ to in-home/lunchbox eating. When money is tight, consumers will understandably make their own lunch. But when they feel they have a little more cash, they start buying again.”

Why is QSR recovering faster than pubs? A key reason is that QSR currently provides the most affordable lunches compared with other channels: £3.42 was the average spend at QSR outlets YE Mar ’13, compared with a Total Market average of £4.46. 

QSR operators have also successfully responded to changing conditions. Leading QSR brands have created successful value combinations and retail operators have put together lunch deals centred around sandwiches, drinks and a snack. This is reflected in the figures with the QS burger and retail/supermarket segments accounting for over half of all QSR lunch visits, while QS coffee has increased its share of QSR lunch by seven percentage points since last year (YE Mar ’13). 

Fielding said: “QSR remains the industry bright spot with sales growth expected to hold at just over 2% through 2015. For the lunch occasion, QSR is also the driver. QSR lunch visits accounted for over half of all lunch visits – reaching 52% as of year end March 2013 – so anything happening here will eventually have an effect on total out of home lunch consumption.

“Consumers are attracted by the clear value proposition that QSR offers. And, when the economy is down, consumers turn to the familiar. People know what they’re getting for their money with the major QSR brands so those outlets offering value lunchtime options have been benefiting.”