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Insight of the Day: Office workers are swapping weekday lunch for happy hour

Weekday Lunch Losing Appeal, But Happy Hour Thriving as Spending Shifts to Weekends

A new report from Square reveals evolving consumer behavior in the restaurant industry. With hybrid work schedules reducing office commutes, weekday lunch outings have declined compared to pre-pandemic levels. However, this doesn't mean consumers are spending less overall – they're simply shifting their spending to weekends.

Key takeaways:

  • Weekday lunch decline: Remote work has led to fewer people eating out for lunch during the week, impacting restaurant sales.

  • Weekend surge: Spending at restaurants and bars is concentrated on weekends, reaching peak levels compared to pre-pandemic times.

  • Happy hour boom: Restaurant and bar traffic during happy hour (4 p.m. to 6 p.m.) is now slightly above pre-pandemic levels, indicating its continued popularity.

  • Shifting consumer behavior: The data suggests that consumers are not necessarily cutting back on spending, but rather adjusting their dining patterns to fit their new work routines.

Cities with notable weekend transaction increases between 2019 and 2023 include Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Phoenix, and St. Louis.

This shift in consumer behavior presents challenges and opportunities for the restaurant industry. While weekday lunch traffic may be down, restaurants can capitalize on the increased weekend demand by offering special promotions, happy hour deals, and creating experiences that cater to weekend crowds.

It's also important for restaurants to adapt to the changing needs of remote workers, potentially by offering delivery or takeout options for those working from home. Understanding and responding to these evolving trends will be crucial for restaurants to maintain profitability and thrive in the post-pandemic landscape.

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