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EDITIONS
Monday, 2 December, 2002, 10:13 GMT
Lunch breaks off the menu
Diners in restaurant
Long lunches are becoming a thing of the past
The office desk is becoming the 'in' place to eat, as the idea of taking a proper lunch break moves out of fashion, according to a survey.

A report from Reuters Business Insight suggests that throughout Europe, the lunchtime meal is being reduced to a hasty sandwich as longer working hours and increased snacking take over.

The UK is among the leaders of the trend with working lunches, and the accompanying wine bill, becoming a thing of the past.

"More hectic lifestyles and longer working hours have compressed the lunch break of many office workers into little more than a half-hour 'pit stop'," said Daniel Lord, author of the 'Future Lunch Solutions' report.

Tasty diversion

The good news is that lunch is not being forgotten altogether. But as snacking throughout the day rises, so the emphasis shifts from the 'lunch' itself to the 'break' it offers.

"Lunch....is increasingly viewed as a moment, however brief, for office workers to treat themselves as a reward following a stressful morning or as a diversion from office boredom," said Mr Lord.


Manufacturers have been guilty of taking a 'unisex' approach to product development

Reuters Business Insight

Regional differences in culture are played out in the lunch hour. The French, for example, still frequently choose an alcoholic drink to accompany a meal whereas in the UK, this trend is waning.

In Italy, home-cooked meals are the norm, whilst restaurants dominate the Spanish lunch hour.

The UK, perhaps unsurprisingly, leads the trend for on-the-go convenience food, with sandwich sales accounting for nearly 50% of the market.

Sandwich culture

Sandwiches, however, should not be under-rated.

Gone are the days of the humble egg-and-cress option, as new fillings, bread types and even 'crumb-less' varieties are fuelling a growing acceptance of the sandwich as a meal.

Average lunchtime spend
France 3.80
Germany 2.00
Italy 3.10
Netherlands 2.80
Spain 4.10
Scandinavia 4.70
UK 3.20

Tomato-bread, crepe-style bread, wraps and bagels are all examples of what Reuters Business Insight called the "new sandwich development".

And woe betide the caterer who fails to adapt to gender differences in taste.

"Manufacturers have been guilty of taking a 'unisex' approach to product development," warned the survey.

"The market must develop products that pander to the distinct nutritional requirements of men and women."

So, salads and low-calorie varieties are suggested as female-friendly options, with chunkier 'man-sized' sandwiches catering to the male palate.

Fashion lunches

Children are leading the fashion-conscious packed lunches according to the survey.

For many, the possibility of impressing their friends with the latest addition to the lunchbox is a key feature of their choices.

But this is more predominant in the UK and US where a pre-packed meal is the norm.

Dutch, German and Italian children are more likely to eat at home, while school meals are still popular in France, Spain and Sweden.

Work-life balance

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31 Oct 02 | Business
23 Aug 02 | Business
04 Feb 02 | Business
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