Give lunch some love to revive LSR traffic

August 2022

Give lunch some love to revive LSR traffic

As COVID-19 upended business worldwide, restaurants across the industry saw dramatic shifts in patronage. Fast food restaurants, with their drive-thru windows and off-premise investments, enjoyed an uptick in traffic, while limited service restaurants (LSRs) saw a decrease. By looking at the statistics behind the downswing and remembering why customers choose LSRs, operators can identify and move toward traffic-driving solutions.


Lunch losses


Lunch sales have dropped dramatically in the last two years, with 78% of consumers saying they visit a fast casual restaurant for lunch at least once a month, down from 84% in 2020. This dip is likely due to the rise in remote work and more consumers preparing their own lunches at home.


By understanding why guests choose LSRs in the first place and looking at potential menu solutions, you can set your fast casual restaurant on the path to greater success.


What guests love about eating at fast casual restaurants


  • Value. 34% are enticed by low prices. Offering specials, combo deals, rewards or loyalty programs will appeal to consumers hoping to spend less.
  • Fast Service. 39% of consumers say they look for speedy service, and 57% of guests expect a fast casual concept to have a drive-thru service. But since building out a drive-thru window isn’t desirable or possible for many LSR locations, consider designating a pickup area to encourage more takeout sales, which 54% expect to see at fast casual restaurants.
  • Healthy Choices and Transparency. 24% say they are more likely to choose an LSR that offers healthier menu options. And with more consumers prioritizing health, it’s no surprise that about half of surveyed diners expect transparent access to nutritional information.
  • High-Quality Food. 37% say offering high-quality, fresh food is important, so choose (and list) ingredients wisely.
  • Menu Variety. 29% of diners say having a wide variety of options is important for an LSR menu. While healthier options are attractive to many, Americans are still big on burgers and fries, with 46% of diners likely to frequent a restaurant that offers them, and 42% particularly excited about fries.
  • Dine-In Perks. 55% of consumers expect to have free refills at fast casual restaurants, for example. Exclusive dine-in perks like this may encourage diners to stay longer and order more food.


Two ideas to kick up your menu and draw in guests


  • Go Healthier. As noted earlier, fast casual diners are enticed by healthier menu options, and look for foods described as low-sodium, natural, low-sugar or low-calorie. To meet this trend, offer turkey as a lower-calorie and lower-fat protein compared to its counterparts. These Turkey Summer Rolls are bright, refreshing and gluten-free. Or offer a satisfying Turkey Avocado Open-Faced Sandwich for a leaner sandwich option. For a healthier take on the classic beef burger, try serving this Mediterranean Turkey Burger.
  • Buy into Bowls. If you’re looking to change up food presentation, consider leaning into the bowl food trend. Appearing on 41% of Top 500 LSR menus, bowls inspire feelings of comfort and healthiness. The portability of bowls also appeals to 39% of consumers who expect pre-packaged grab-and-go options from fast casual restaurants. Diners will love these bowl recipes from Butterball, like the bright and savory Kona Turkey Bowl.


Operators face an uphill challenge attracting more lunch patrons with the increase in remote work. But by understanding why diners opt for fast casual restaurants and incorporating these solutions into your program, you can recapture the lunch crowd.


What solutions do you plan to try? Share your thoughts on our Facebook or LinkedIn pages. Or visit our Resource Center for more tips and trends.



Find Your Broker

Find Your Broker