Lunch Hour Basics

The economic recession caused lunch sales to take a nosedive, as millions of workers either lost their jobs or started to bring lunch from home in an attempt to save money. Today, the outlook of the lunch daypart has improved. Many operators even say lunch has grown over the past two years.

Lunch is all about convenience. Workers usually have just one hour, sometimes less, for a lunch break. There are often other errands they must complete in this time, so quick, accurate service is crucial. The midday sales of prepared foods at grocery and convenience stores have increased by nearly 30% since 2008. Savvy operators can compete by offering express lunches and grab-and-go options.

Menu variety is another key factor in attracting more diners during the lunch hour. Purchases are often driven by cravings rather than cost, so it’s important to offer a variety of flavor profiles that appeal to diners’ capricious tastes.

Salads and sandwiches have a lot of growth potential for lunch offerings, and they’re served by 90% of non-commercial operators during the lunch hour. Plus, they’re easy to prepare and can be offered as grab-and-go items for busy diners. Use these lunch ideas to create a variety of convenient, flavorful options:

    • Sandwiches—They’re a lunchtime staple, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. Turkey is lower in fat and higher in protein than many other lunchmeat options, and it is the perfect canvas for nearly any flavor profile. You can use it in Mexican-inspired tortas or Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, as well as classic American deli offerings. Take your sandwiches up a notch and offer variety with delicious seasoned turkey breast meats, like Mesquite Smoked, Honey Maple, or Peppered.


  • Salads—Like sandwiches, salads are a great way to offer diners a lunchtime favorite with a twist. They’re easy to add to any menu, no matter what type of cuisine your operation serves. Toss in some turkey for extra protein to offer patrons a filling midday meal.

Browse our Culinary Center and E-Z Menu Ideas to find recipes for sandwiches, salads and more.


Casual-Dining Chains Lower Prices, Speed Service in Lunch Battle, NRN, November 2013.

Increase Lunch Sales by Offering Grab-and-Go Options, Restaurant Hospitality, September 2013.

The Big Picture, FoodService Director, 2012.

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