In 2021, Edenred and its partners surveyed more than 44,000 workers and over 1,000 restaurant owners in 13 European countries to study lunch trends across the continent. The findings highlight three major trends to have emerged or been amplified due to the Covid 19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns: the rise of digital solutions and behaviors, the importance of a healthy and balanced diet, and growing concern among employees and restaurant owners about food waste.
Trend 1: Digital technology and meal delivery are reshaping lunchbreaks
Meal delivery – already identified as a strong and lasting trend in the previous Edenred FOOD survey – is now an everyday part of people’s lives. In 2021, more than 67% of European workers surveyed said they had used meal delivery or click & collect services either at the office or while working from home. France ranks among the average in the countries surveyed, with 65% of French workers having used a delivery service.
However, the rise in meal delivery has not spelled the end for table service, as most workers surveyed say they plan to continue both ordering online and eating out.
Restaurant owners have adapted to this trend by offering new digital solutions. In France, for example, 48% of restaurants now offer take-out or meal delivery services. This figure has nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic (26% in 2019).
Trend 2: Workers want healthy, balanced lunches
For 53% of survey respondents in Europe, and more than one in two in France, the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns triggered greater awareness of the need to adopt a healthier diet. This is reflected in consumers’ plates, with 25% of workers in France saying they have changed their diet and eat better today than they did before the pandemic. This trend was mainly observed in southern European countries (Italy, Spain, Portugal).
Unsurprisingly, then, 74% of workers surveyed would like to see more balanced dishes on restaurant menus. To meet this demand, 36% of restaurant owners (24% in France) say they have already changed their practices and worked with suppliers during the pandemic to find healthier, locally sourced products. While most of the restaurant owners surveyed say they are aware that their customers would like to have healthier options, nearly half feel that cooking balanced meals is more expensive.
In France, the main reasons for choosing healthier, more balanced meals are health (64%), followed by environmental protection (30%) and animal welfare (30%, the highest percentage of all countries surveyed after Austria at 34%).
Trend 3: Food waste is now a top concern in Europe
While meal delivery and take-out appealed to users at the height of the pandemic, a new concern also seems to have emerged in its wake: rising food waste and how to tackle it. Fully 68% of workers surveyed say that the Covid-19 crisis made them aware of the need to protect the environment, particularly by limiting food waste. And 77% of respondents in Europe (82% in France) say they would like to support restaurants working toward this cause.
Environmental protection is also an issue of concern to restaurant owners. Across Europe, 44% of restaurants have introduced measures to cut waste from meal deliveries and take-out orders, for example.
The fight against food waste is included in three of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.