Is Dining Out for Lunch Dead?

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The next time the office reeks of those reheated burritos and the leftover chicken chow mien, don’t just complain that you can’t work under smelly conditions, say a prayer for the restaurant business.  The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets are reporting that the U.S. restaurant industry is in big trouble.  And the reason can be summarized in one word: lunch.

Americans are not going out to restaurants for lunch and it’s showing up in their bottom lines.  Restaurants are reporting the lowest level of lunch traffic in over forty years.  Before you think this fact is yet another sign of the apocalypse, think again about your own habits and schedules and you won’t really be surprised. Consider this:

  • We all need a moment of solitude during the day as the meetings and expectations and pressures mount. That turkey sandwich at your desk might be all you can muster.  It’s not unusual for people to put on headphones and enjoy a chicken Caesar and relax with visions of beaches for just a few minutes.
  • Offsite meetups are more likely to take place over a coffee – not lunch. A coffee is much less of a commitment than lunch, and you can do a bunch of them in a day. We may get the caffeine jitters by the middle of the afternoon but there is no doubt that coffee is detracting from the lunch crowd.
  • Working from home means your chances of going out to a restaurant for lunch are almost nonexistent. When working from home you will probably dip into the fridge for that burrito or chow mien too.
  • More and more companies are providing lunch onsite to make us more efficient. It may not be the chef prepared meals like Google or Facebook but any lunch provided will be good enough if it’s free.

Lunch isn’t going away. Like so many other parts of the workplace, it is just changing.  You can pick and choose what kind of lunch person you want to be. Probably even better is to go with the flow of your workplace and do the lunch thing that others do. If everyone goes out to their cars at lunch and eats alone you might want to find another place to work.

For me, I like lunch. I have lunch every day. It’s the break that shouts half way home.

What is your lunchtime routine?

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