Service of Out to Lunch

June 8th, 2017

Categories: Food, Restaurant


Two headlines touting Wall Street Journal reporter Julie Jargon’s recent articles make a point: We’re being more careful with our time and money.

They were:

Going Out for Lunch Is a Dying Tradition: Restaurants suffer as people eat at their desks; no more three-martini sit-down meals” and

Diners Are Finding $13 Burgers Hard to Swallow: Number of outlets peddling gourmet toppings has nearly quadrupled since 2005, but sticker-shocked consumers opt for home grilling instead.”

I’ve always been statistically insignificant but both headlines ring true to me, with some adjustments.

The three-martini lunch may have lasted longer in some industries than in others but it hasn’t been in evidence for eons in my experience for health, budgetary and reasons of time constraints, to name a few in no particular order. And speaking of time, with deadlines that relentlessly hit a person’s handheld so as to spoil digestion as well as conversation, who can afford to make it a habit to leave their desk at midday?


In any case, a sit-down luncheon meal rarely includes time for three of any kind of drink, soft or hard.

I rarely even order out for lunch when once I did daily. The 11 under-30 tech people whose office is where I too roost do far less frequently. Instead our refrigerator is full of containers from home ready to be warmed in microwave or toaster oven and homemade sandwiches on rustic bread. On occasion they’ll order pizza as a group. Two years ago there was a constant stream of food deliveries from breakfast through afternoon snack.


As for the deluxe burger’s fall from grace, in addition to people cutting down on lunches out it could be that the concept is past its prime given that it’s been around for a dozen years which is a stretch for any food trend in these parts. Perhaps the cool and hip have moved on leaving the smart to make delicious burgers at home for a fraction of the price.

Have your luncheon habits changed? Are we missing something by giving up business lunches? Do corporate cafeterias take a bite out of the restaurant business? Have you cut down on your burger consumption in general? Do you think you’re getting good value for $13+ burgers?


6 Responses to “Service of Out to Lunch”

  1. ASK Said:

    When I first started working, at a New York PR agency after graduating college, my weekly expense reports were criticized by the big boss — I was NOT spending enough money taking editors out to lunch. Before I retired 2 years ago, my only lunch dates were the friends I made as a publicist back in the Stone Age.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Those were the days when editors had well trained and smart assistants. Now they have twice the work, little support and a fraction of the budget. I suspect that some industries such as big pharma, beauty, fashion and finance with deep pockets still entertain in the world of PR and that the advertising industry still does as well. Where margins have shrunk, along with staff and budgets, this is less true and is reflected in the restaurant lunch crowd–a misnomer for sure–especially at the moderate end.

  3. hb Said:

    I had the extraordinary good fortune to be assigned as my first real job, excluding the military, to be a Vice Consul in Genoa, Italy, then an active port and mercantile center. It was a different world then. Since there was no PX, no commissary and no government housing on the Italian Riviera, we had to suffer and do without. We had to live among the Genoese in a charming apartment with a magnificent view, keep Genoese hours and eat Genoese food.

    I don’t know whether it is still true, but then they were a deeply reserved and private people, not prone to display in any way, but they were decidedly proud of and passionate about what they ate. Their cuisine, which is quite distinctive and varied, ranked among the very best in the world.

    Our office hours were 8:15 AM to 12:15 AM six days a week, and 2:15 PM to 6:00 PM five days a week, and lunch, whether at home or at one of the many fine restaurants near the office, was the big event of the day and what an event it almost always was.

    Ever since, I have fought a losing war against the “lunch-at-the-desk” champions, and I could give you a thousand reasons why a good lunch unhurriedly eaten is better for you, but what’s the point. Civilization is doomed.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I haven’t been abroad in too many years but on one of my last trips I was irritated when I wanted to visit a museum or church in a little town in Italy or France, for example, and the place would be closed for lunch. Messed up my schedule but was nice for the people who worked there.

    If I eat too much at lunch I feel sleepy which, no doubt, is what the siesta is for. No doubt that extremes are unhealthy and eating on the run is as bad as feeling stuffed. I have heard that eating most at midday is best for you as impractical as it is. I would guess that in smaller towns life might not be so frantic and that there is more time for lunch though you can’t argue with what Julie Jargon reported. She didn’t say that the restaurants were exclusively in big cities.

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    We have definitely continued to experience a progressive and steady diminishing of social lunching out during the work day. Since I don’t work in a corporate office or large firm, lunch dates become more complex and take more out of the work day. They are consequently less appealing. They are occasionally pleasant and perhaps incidentally productive.

    Like you Jeannie, I never liked the routine of cocktail business lunches and I do often eat in my office. We also often provide lunch for a part time employee.

    I am totally disinterested and also unimpressed by the pretentiousness of $13.00 and $17.00 and even $20.00 burgers. They were never intended to be rarified luxury choices. The fragility and ever-widening economic strain in our current economy makes most everyone now much more careful in their spending habits. And it has become significantly less appealing or charming to eat out because service, at least in the Boston area, is often non-existent and choices are not very tempting. More people seem even to be bringing food from home. There has been a marked decline in food delivery in our office as well as many fewer solicitations and announcements for delivery.

    I did work in the same building many years ago as the Italian Trade Commission. All the other employees but one were Italian. The First Secretary was from Bologna. Everybody considered the choice of where or what to eat a topic of maximum importance. The Trade Commission as well as everyone else acknowledged the superiority of Bolognese cuisine. The Commissioner’s espressos were prepared in a two part coffee maker several times daily on an electric burner set on a metal waste basket in the store room. They were always served with grace.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Reading your comment triggered a guess. People with little money spend $3+ for a coffee at Starbucks because they consider it a treat and walking around with a Starbucks cup prestigious. Usually there are just as tasty alternatives available for sale steps away, especially in cities like Boston and New York. Hamburger meat costs a restaurant very little. Jazz it up for a few cents and add a hefty surcharge and some will similarly think they are getting something special that is still cheaper than the $36+ steak. The trick is to charge as much as you can so businesses that follow such models do well that is until the trends change or an economic pinch happens.

    The young techies in my office make coffee on a machine these days. That’s cut down on a lot of delivery traffic. Nobody serves it to them as in your example of the First Secretary, but I notice they all use real mugs–no paper or other Styrofoam for them!

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