American consumers, on average, eat lunch out at restaurants nearly twice a week, spending about $10 per occasion, for an average of about $936 per year, according to a new study from credit card company Visa.

Spending patterns in Visa’s study differed among different demographics, but in some cases respondents who did not visit restaurants as often as their peers nonetheless spent more each time they visited. The variation suggests the importance of employing several strategies for marketing lunch, including loyalty programs or value menus for frequent visitors, or new products and limited-time offers to entice occasional customers.

The survey of 1,005 adults found that men were more likely to eat lunch at restaurants than women, and they outspent women, on average. Male consumers reported an average lunch expenditure of $21 per week, while female respondents said they spent an average of just under $15 per week on lunch.

However, as a group, the participants with incomes below $25,000 per year reported the highest per-meal average spending, at $11.70 per lunch. The group of respondents with incomes of $50,000 or more reported an average lunch expenditure of $9.60 per meal, though Visa did not disclose how much more often those higher-income participants visit restaurants at lunchtime.

Regional differences also emerged, Visa’s study found. For example, respondents in the West matched the nationwide averages in the survey, visiting restaurants 1.8 times per week on average and spending $10 per meal for a weekly average expenditure of $18.

Southerners had the highest average weekly spending at lunchtime, at an average of $20 per week, derived from two visits at $10 per meal on average.

Respondents in the Northeast ate out for lunch the fewest times per week of all participants, at an average of 1.5 per week. However, they spent an average of $11.40 per meal for a weekly total of $17.10.

Midwesterners went out for lunch an average of 1.7 times per week and spent $8.90 per meal, for a total average weekly expenditure of $15.13.

While a separate study of U.S. restaurant traffic from The NPD Group recently found that traffic at lunch and dinner stayed flat in the second quarter, overall restaurant visits grew 1 percent and total spending rose 3 percent compared with the year-earlier second quarter, implying an opportunity to boost the average check at the lunch daypart with the right strategies.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN