June 22, 2024


Image for article titled The workday lunch is losing its appeal. Consumers are saving that cash for the weekend instead

Image: Bloomberg (Getty Images)

Consumers may be holding off on spending money during their weekday lunch excursion, but that doesn’t mean they’re not splurging on the weekend.

According to data compiled by digital payments platform Square, with hybrid work schedules keeping workers from commuting to offices full-time, weekday lunch outings continue to be down across the U.S. The trend means that restaurants and bars have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, the platform found.

“Before COVID, consumers were going out more during the week to eat lunch by their office and grab drinks after work,” said Ara Kharazian, a research lead at Square, in the report. “Now with remote work, restaurant spend has shifted to the weekend and we now see that weekend traffic is at its peak.”

The perception that consumers are cutting back on spending at restaurants isn’t necessarily the case, according to Kharazian, who said what’s really changing is consumer behavior.

Square analyzed the share of weekly transactions at food and drink establishments in selected cities and calculated the percentage point change from 2019 to 2023. It also examined dining trends, along with shifts in consumer spending, and restaurant wages.

But in a bright spot for the industry, happy hour remains a priority, the quarterly restaurant report found. In fact, according to Square, restaurant and bar traffic between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. for happy hour is actually slightly above pre-pandemic levels when compared to 2019-2023.

Some cities that led weekend transactions during that period include Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Phoenix, and St. Louis.



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