3 Ways Restaurant Challenger Brands Can Keep From Losing Their Lunch

July 10, 2014 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

You don’t have to look too far to find article after article about the dilemma American workers are facing these days of too much work and not enough time. Increasingly, people are up early, staying late, and working weekends. Keeping up has become an all-day, all-night affair. But still, people have to eat—right? Apparently not. For all practical purposes, the traditional “lunch hour” is all but gone.

The unexpected consequence of our busy work lives is that more and more of us are deciding to skip lunch in favor of running errands, enjoying a manicure, getting the oil changed, or (ironically) grocery shopping. Instead of dashing out of the office to choke down a sandwich in 37 minutes and feeling rushed, we’re knocking a couple of quick errands off the list and dealing with food some other way.

Just consider these stats from a recent blog from My Door Sign:

  • In an OfficeTeam survey, 48 percent of respondents said their typical lunch break was 30 minutes or less.
  • In a 2006 KFC study, 60 percent of workers in corporate America considered the hour-long lunch to be “the biggest myth of office life.”
  • The same KFC study found “more than half of American office workers multitask during lunch by eating, running errands, shopping online, and checking email at the same time.”
  • A survey from office supply giant Staples revealed 19 percent of employees don’t break for lunch at all.

The Restaurant Experience: What Customers Are Looking For

As a restaurant owner, lunch represents a significant to huge part of your business. You can’t just write the decline in it off as an unfortunate trend. And by thinking like a challenger brand, you don’t have to.

Here are three quick solutions to help battle the Lunch Crunch!

Lean into the “work at your desk” trend. Establish relationships with nearby companies and deliver lunch to their offices.

Don’t offer catering? Don’t deliver? That doesn’t mean you can’t start. And nobody says you have to go big, or not at all. Start small. Pick one or two companies to start with and connect with the gatekeeper who orders lunch for those working through. It happens every day, whether you’re getting a piece of it or not. It might take offering free samples of items on your menu, incenting trial with valuable coupons, or some serious perseverance, but it’s worth the effort. One order for 10–20 at an office building is the equivalent of 10–20 people walking through your door. Stop focusing on all the reasons you can’t pull this off, and start thinking of ways you can.

Develop delicious, portable menu items people can grab quickly and easily.

Ask yourself, what on your menu can be made ahead of time and kept fresh for lunch customers coming through in a rush? Do you have online ordering or do any kind of marketing that encourages your customers to order ahead? They won’t know if you don’t’ tell them. Make it easy for them to order their favorites ahead of time and be ready to check them out quickly when they pick it up. You might just make the errand list.

Partner with other service companies to allow your customers to kill two birds with one stone.

People are self-selecting out of lunch to a get a massage, a manicure, an oil change, or any number of other things. What if they could eat AND do those things? Are you a quality-focused café bakery with delicious sandwiches, cookies, and pastries? Contract with a spa to provide lunch for the ladies coming in over lunch. You get the residual good feelings from customers because of the association (plus some payment or trade you can use with your own customers or employees), and the spa gets to provide a delicious lunch that differentiates them from their competitors. Are you a pizza maker? There are plenty of garages, tire stores, car dealerships, etc. where people are waiting 30 minutes for a service to be rendered. How nice would it be to have the chance to eat your hot, fresh pizza, as well? The key here is picking a partner who’s congruent with your brand. Start small, but get started. Find a partner, try it out on your slowest day of the week, and see how it goes.

For more information about driving restaurant traffic, check out these blog posts:

Driving Restaurant Traffic Without Discounting

5 Quick, Easy Ways to Drive Restaurant Traffic

– Michael Tuggle is Chief Imagination Officer at The Loomis Agency, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and the Voice of the Underdog.

challenger brandrestaurants

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.