SURVEY AFTER SURVEY of American workers in recent years seems to dwell on a growing propensity to skip (or at least curtail) lunch, combined with a growing anxiety about the financial impact of that traditional midday meal. The latest such bit of research — this one a telephone survey conducted late last year of a “nationally representative sample of 1,000 employed Americans aged 18 and older” by the Accounting Principals research firm — found several interesting things that push against that narrative.
Two thirds buy their lunch instead of brown bagging and spend an average of $37 a week, which works out to nearly $2,000 annually
Younger professionals (18-34) spend more than those over 45 (almost $45 compared to under $31)
Men buy lunch more often than women (69% vs. 62%) and spend way more on it ($46.30 vs. $26.50).
Given that males are still the majority of the workforce and that younger workers will by definition be around longer than the older ones, these numbers are at least somewhat encouraging for onsite foodservice providers. Even if onsite venues only capture a fraction of the lunch trade, the numbers suggest that there's still plenty of penetration potential out there.
The urge to splurge also extends to coffee purchases. Half of the respondents to the AP survey said they buy coffee reglarly at work, spending more than $20 a week. Not surprisingly, the caffeine fiend crowd skews young, with those aged 18-34 outspending their seniors almost two to one (almost $25 a week compared to around $14). OCS vendors might note that almost a quarter expressed a wish that their employers would invest in better brew at the office.
Curiously, when asked what expense they would prefer to have reimbursed by their employers, four times as many workers chose commuting expenses over lunch expenses even though statistically, lunch chews up more of their income than commuting ($2,000 annually vs. $1,500). Perhaps the numbers were influenced by the rising cost of gasoline in the time the survey was taken late last year.
Workers also indicated a preference for seeing upgrades by their employers in the vending machine snacks and coffee offered on the premises (there were no questions directly addressing onsite manual foodservice). Younger workers were even more adamant about this than older ones.
The entire survey result can be accessed in PDF form at http://tinyurl.com/7newwsc.