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Failure To Lunch

The Cities Where Workers Can't Get Away From Their Desk

Sperling's BestPlaces was commissioned by restaurant chain TGI Fridays to determine the lunching habits of office workers in the 50 largest U.S. metro areas.

Realizing that employees are feeling pressured to get their work done, TGI Fridays built a lighthearted campaign based on Sperling's research, naming the situation as "Fear of Lunching Out" (FOLO).

Behind the fun was some very serious research, based on an exclusive poll of visitors to the Sperling's BestPlaces.net website. Nearly 5,000 visitors responded to the poll, providing new insights into office lunchtime habits.

One of the key findings was how often workers stayed in the office and ate at their desks. Nationally, nearly half (47.9%) of all workers responded that they did so 4 or 5 times every work week. Baltimore topped all metros in the survey with 74.4%, and it also had the highest percent of workers bringing their lunch from home (81.8%).

Sperling's also found that nationally 64% of workers bring lunch from home, 20% eat out, and the remainder order in or skip lunch (7%, 9% respectively).

Main reasons for not eating out are "don't have time" (35%), cost (31%), and convenience (25%). 9% also indicated that "there are no good food options available".

Scroll down the page to find other statistics for office lunching habits in the United States.

Here are the top and bottom ten metro areas from our study. You'll find all 50 places ranked elsewhere in this document.

Most Lunch-challenged metros -

  1. 1. Baltimore, MD
  2. 2. Orlando, FL
  3. 3. Columbus, OH
  4. 4. Sacramento, CA
  5. 5. Salt Lake City, UT
  6. 6. Phoenix, AZ
  7. 7. Washington, DC
  8. 8. San Francisco, CA
  9. 9. Hartford, CT
  10. 10. New York, NY

Places where workers area most likely to get away from the office for lunch -

  1. 1. Oklahoma City, OK
  2. 2. Louisville, KY
  3. 3. Virginia Beach, VA
  4. 4. Buffalo, NY
  5. 5. Raleigh, NC
  6. 6. Cincinnati, OH
  7. 7. Cleveland, OH
  8. 8. Richmond, VA
  9. 9. San Jose, CA
  10. 10. Atlanta, GA

Complete ranking of all metro areas By likelihood of staying in the office for lunch

FOLO Rank CBSA name Population Pop rank
1Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD2,785,87420
2 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 2,321,418 26
3 Columbus, OH 1,994,536 32
4 Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA 2,244,397 27
5 Salt Lake City, UT 1,153,340 48
6 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 4,489,109 12
7 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 6,033,737 7
8 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 4,594,060 11
9 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 1,214,295 47
10 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 20,092,883 1
11 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 3,671,478 15
12 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 3,263,431 17
13 Jacksonville, FL 1,419,127 40
14 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 2,069,681 30
15 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 1,251,849 45
16 St. Louis, MO-IL 2,806,207 19
17 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 6,051,170 6
18 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 2,754,258 21
19 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 4,732,161 10
20 Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN 1,792,649 36
21 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 2,380,314 22
22 Pittsburgh, PA 2,355,968 23
23 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 2,348,247 24
24 Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 1,609,367 38
25 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 1,572,245 39
26 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 1,143,772 49
27 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 2,328,652 25
28 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 6,954,330 4
29 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 4,441,890 13
30 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 6,490,180 5
31 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 1,971,274 33
32 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 5,929,819 8
33 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 4,296,611 14
34 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 13,262,220 2
35 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 9,554,598 3
36 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 1,343,230 41
37 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 3,495,176 16
38 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 2,915,582 18
39 Kansas City, MO-KS 2,071,133 29
40 Austin-Round Rock, TX 1,943,299 35
41 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 5,614,323 9
42 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 1,952,872 34
43 Richmond, VA 1,260,029 44
44 Cleveland-Elyria, OH 2,063,598 31
45 Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 2,149,449 28
46 Raleigh, NC 1,242,974 46
47 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 1,136,360 50
48 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 1,716,624 37
49 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 1,269,702 43
50 Oklahoma City, OK 1,336,767 42

Poll questions and responses

4931 responses nationally, conducted March 25-April 3, 2016
Results summarized at the national level

1 - How do you usually eat your lunch while at work
64.5% I bring my lunch from home
8.6% I don't eat lunch
19.8% I eat out
7.2% I order in

2 - When you take a lunch break during the work day do you feel like you are "on the clock" and rushed?
58.0% Yes
42.0% No

3 - Each work week, how often do you stay in the office for lunch and eat at your desk?
19.5% 0 times
7.8% 1 time
10.8% 2 times
14.0% 3 times
14.8% 4 times
33.1% 5 times

4 - Would you prefer to leave your office and eat lunch out more often while at work?
55.6% Yes
44.4% No

5 - What factor most affects how often you eat lunch out while at work?
31.5% Cost
25.3% Convenience
34.6% Don't have time to get away
8.6% Lack of good food in area

6 - How common is eating lunch out at your workplace?
18.2% Most people leave the office
39.6% About half of my coworkers eat lunch out
32.6% People rarely eat lunch out
9.6% No one eats lunch out

7 - We define the feeling that you cannot leave work for lunch - whether due to few restaurant options, concern about missing work, or lack of time - as having the "fear" of lunching out. Would you say you have experienced this feeling before?
53.3% Yes
46.7% No

Key Findings

The exclusive Friday's poll of workplace lunching provides some unique insights into how working America eats their lunch.

Across the United States, nearly 2/3 of office workers bring their lunch from home. About 20% prefer to get out of the office to eat. Less than 10% each either order in their lunch or don't eat lunch at all. Among our 50 major metro areas, Baltimore had the highest percentage of bringing lunch from home (at 88.6%), followed by Jacksonville and Philadelphia. The metro where workers were most likely to eat out is Memphis (at 39.1%), followed by Virginia Beach and Tampa.

The poll also asked if workers if they feel rushed or "on the clock" when they take a lunch break. Workers across the U.S. were fairly evenly divided with the majority (58.0%) saying yes, they did feel rushed. Looking at specific metros, worker in Salt Lake City were most likely to agree (81.8%), trailed by Last Vegas and Providence.

A particularly insightful poll question asked how often workers stayed in the office and ate at their desks. Nationally, nearly half (47.9%) of all workers responded that they did so 4 or 5 times every work week. Baltimore again is #1 (74.4%), followed by St. Louis and Boston.

Another question asked workers if they would prefer to take a break from the office and have lunch out. Nationally, there was a slight preference toward eating out (55.6%). It's a different story however, when looking at specific metro areas. Providence had the strongest wish to eat out (85.0%), followed by Richmond (VA) and Buffalo. New Orleans is a different story, where 63.2% of workers prefer eating at work.

Our Friday's poll also asked what factors affected the decision to eat out or stay at the office. Nationally, the responses from workers were closed divided between "Didn't have time," "Cost," and "Convenience" (34.6%, 31.5%, and 25.3%, respectively). The other choice was "Lack of good food in the area" which only garnered 8.6% of the responses. Among our poll's metro areas, Hartford (CT) was most concerned about the cost (52.4%), Salt Lake City about the convenience (40.9%), Providence didn't have time to get away (65.0%), and Nashville said it was the lack of good food choices nearby (18.2%).

Workers also responded to the poll question regarding how common it is at their office to eat lunch out. 39.9% answered that about half of their co-workers eat out, and 18.2% indicated that most of their fellow employees leave the office. Nearly a third (32.6%) say people rarely eat out, and only 9.6% report that no one eats out. Looking into the opinions in specific metro areas, Memphis had the greatest percentage of indicating that most workers leave the office (30.4%), Charlotte reporting that half the workers ate out (82.6%), Milwaukee was tops (59.1%) with rarely eating out, and 18.2% of Baltimore workers said no one eats lunch out.

Finally, our poll got right to point, posing the question if workers have ever experienced the "Fear of Lunching Out." Reinforcing the findings of other poll questions, the majority of respondents (53.3%) indicated yes, they had experienced FOLO. Hartford (CT) had the greatest percentage of positive responses (76.2%), followed by Sacramento (66.7%) and Memphis (65.2%). The metros with least percentage of FOLO are Milwaukee (31.8%), Nashville and Oklahoma City.