Latest figures revealed by TWC and MealTrak – the nation’s leading continuous tracking programme for food-to-go and out-of-home consumption – show that staff dining within the workplace is now on the rise as workers return to the office.

In the first quarter of 2022 (12 w/e 21st March 2022), MealTrak revealed a 152% increase in visits to workplace catering outlets, versus the same period in 2021.

However, this rise in growth dipped over the next 4-week period (12 w/e 18th April 2022), and whilst this slowdown is likely to be attributed to the Easter break, Tom Fender, Development Director at TWC cautions that this could be an indication that consumers are starting to tighten their belts in the face of rapidly rising costs of living and inflationary pressures.

He said: “We all know that employees are returning to workplaces across the UK, to varying degrees of frequency – and clearly, it’s good news for catering operators in the B & I sector that a steady stream of workers are returning to the office – with many employers now embracing hybrid working models.

“Operators are opening their doors again and starting to recover from the staff-dining wasteland of the past two years, albeit that they will be faced with the inevitable resourcing issues associated with the current labour shortage, having had to let many of their people go over the pandemic.”

“The next quarter will give us a strong indication of how workers are perceiving value within their workplace dining and whether they are cutting back on food and beverage purchases within the workplace, when faced with less money in their pockets. For example, in previous recessions we have seen a rise in ‘brown bagging’, where consumers prepare food at home to take to work to save money.”

“On this point, we are already seeing a reduction in consumer spending in many sectors (including retail) as individuals are faced with choices to make. That said, the MealTrak data also revealed a strong performance in Retail food-to-go in the last 12 weeks. Whether this rise will impact on workplace dining is yet to be seen.”

TWC and MealTrak are working in collaboration to report the latest consumer trends to support operators, wholesalers and suppliers with their forecasting and strategic planning.

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