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STUDY: How the Pandemic, WFH Have Affected Lunch Transactions

According to Toast research, large commuter areas are still recovering.
lunch at office
Lunchtime delivery accounts for 3% of lunchtime transactions in Q1 2023 compared to just 1% in Q1 2019.
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Commuter metro areas like New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco still haven’t fully returned to their pre-pandemic level of weekday lunchtime transactions, according to Toast's Q1 2023 Restaurant Trends Report. The report provides insight into the overall state of the U.S. restaurant industry through an analysis of aggregated sales data from selected cohorts of restaurants in select U.S. metropolitan areas on the Toast platform, which serves approximately 85,000 restaurant locations as of March 31.

Key trends include:

  • Kansas City metro area lunch transactions are up 3% since 2019: The Kansas City and Charleston metro areas were the only Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) that Toast analyzed that increased weekday lunchtime transactions in Q1 2023 compared to Q1 2019. 
  • Weekday lunch drinking habits: Toast's analysis of weekday transactions showed that Wisconsin had the highest percentage of alcohol purchases during lunchtime compared to any other state. On average, alcoholic beverages in Q1 2023 made up approximately 30% of items on the average Wisconsin lunch bill, which is almost twice the national average of 16%. Surprisingly, New York was tied at the bottom of the list for states where alcohol is ordered alongside lunchtime meals only 8% of the time.2
  • Dine-in reigns supreme for workday lunches: Three years since the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S., dine-in still dominates workday lunches and accounts for 70% of lunchtime transactions in Q1 2023 compared to 79% in Q1 2019. Takeout transactions rose from 20% to 27% for the same period.3
    • Lunchtime delivery accounts for 3% of lunchtime transactions in Q1 2023 compared to just 1% in Q1 2019.

Lunch spending is up: The amount guests spend on lunch – whether dine-in or takeout – increased 46% on average since 2019. The average spend on takeout food during lunchtime in Q1 2023 was $22 per order, a 42% increase from the same period in 2019. Meanwhile, the average amount spent on dine-in food was $24 per order in Q1 2023, showing a 49% increase from Q1 2019.
Note: This analysis only covers the amount people spend on food during weekday lunch and does not factor in the number of menu items guests ordered, party size, or the duration of their stay, drinks, tax, or tip.


For the full report, visit the Toast Newsroom.

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