In Focus
EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Kevin Santos, Australia

All-day options, lighter meals amongst opportunities pushed in recovering lunch segment

QSR Media talks to Jamaica Blue, Lord of the Fries and Huxtaburger to get their observations on the daypart.

Restaurant chains are maneuvering to showcase all-day options, lighter meals and limited specials to grab a bigger bite on the recovering lunch daypart.

Jamaica Blue national operations manager Stean Kelly told QSR Media lunch continues to be one of its strongest sales periods throughout the country, particularly the 12.30pm-1.30pm time frame.

In-house options such as fritters, sandwiches and salads continue to perform “strongly”, especially when partnered with a coffee, but observed an increase in customers ordering their breakfast and brunch items during lunch times.

“Items typically sold during breakfast and brunch are now increasingly also becoming significant sellers during our lunch period. We’ve helped address this by taking friction points away for our customers, encouraging them to order what they feel like and when, such as categorising our whole menu as “All Day” as opposed to having categories,” Kelly said, adding they also seeing an upward trend in persons dining-in.

For Lord of the Fries, meal deals are their most popular offerings at lunch time, peaking at 12:00pm to 2pm but says its city stores are busiest during late night weekends.

As more people slowly return to offices, the plant-based brand is turning to limited specials to generate buzz and attract foot traffic.

“They have short lunch times and are looking for grab-and-go options,” CEO Mark Koronczyk said, referring to working consumers.

Jason Geriesi, general manager of Melbourne-based burger brand Huxtaburger, also said they are also seeing positive growth in their lunch daypart. In contrast to dinner, along with the established delivery habits, he says the brand has seen dine-in sales rebuild faster during lunch.

“This shows the impact local businesses and offices have on the hospitality industry, as these trends align with people returning to the workplace,” he explained.

The chain also saw an increase in customers getting involved with campaigns and promos over lunch, in comparison to previous years.

“Our average spend is lower during the lunch daypart, with customers being less inclined to order sides and chips to accompany their burger. We also see our strongest grilled chicken burger sales over lunch. This shows our customers are looking for a lighter meal over lunch, whereas they’re happy to go all in and treat themselves at dinner time, with fried chicken burgers, sides and chip sales dramatically increasing.”

These trends, Geriesi says, demonstrate that their lunch time customers are more health-conscious and are looking to spend less than they would at other dayparts. In response, Huxtaburger made operational changes to how its team members are doing suggestive selling and upselling, which are also informing their approach to delivery bundles.

“Our restaurant teams are encouraged to tailor their recommendations to align with the daypart and recognise that upselling chips to a lunch time customer, who just orders a burger, is not always as effective,” he explained.

“Also recommending products like Kombucha as opposed to a beer could very well see more uptakes, especially being such a fast growing category within our drinks menu.”

Demand for “nutritious” fast food seen
IBISWorld forecasts industry revenue to grow at an annualised 1.0% over the five years through 2025-26, to $21.7 billion. The market research company, anticipating rising consumer demand for “nutritious” fast food, sees cafes as a particular competitor in the lunch daypart by offering “a selection of healthy and convenient meal options.”

“Most consumers view sandwiches and wraps made in cafes as higher quality than fast food products, many of which are sold at similar prices,” IBISWorld senior industry analyst Suzy Oo said in a March 2021 report on fast food and takeaway food services in Australia.

Oo also expects a decline in real household discretionary income, leading to discouraged expenditure on fast food, with more consumers “opting for homemade meals to stretch their budget.”

Lighter and cheaper
Over the next six to twelve months, Jamaica Blue and Huxtaburger said they are tinkering with lighter lunch options. Lord of the Fries, meanwhile, confirmed it will be introducing a dine-at-home range and a new plant-based concept inspired by soul food.

“We will continue to work on developing our lunch category with items customers will feel comfortable ordering for both breakfast and lunch. Additionally, we will also have a focus on lighter and healthier options. We expect the industry as a whole will also move within the same direction, to offer more variety to all customers,” Kelly said.

“Introducing more customisable options, would allow our customers more flexibility around price and meal size, as well provide our team members with easy upsell opportunities to drive up the spend per transaction,” Geriesi explained.

“We have already seen QSRs introduce lighter and cheaper options on to their menu and believe we will continue to see this grow.”

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