CIRFOOD'S GOOD LUNCH BREAK OBSERVATORY: HIGH LEVEL OF SATISFACTION WITH COMPANY CATERING
What are the habits of Italians on their lunch break? This is the question that inspired the survey carried out by Nomisma for CIRFOOD’s Osservatorio Buona Pausa Pranzo (Good Lunch Break Observatory). With this initiative, CIRFOOD wanted to describe the perceptions and experiences of Italians in regard to their lunch break.
The research was presented on 3rd December in live streaming on the Facebook page of Il Giornale del Cibo, the online magazine dedicated to food culture published by CIRFOOD.
The presentation, moderated by speaker and host of national events Germano Lanzoni, was an opportunity to share the results of the analysis that Nomisma conducted on a sample of 1,200 interviews, involving workers and students aged 18 to 55, who have lunch outside the home regularly, at least two or three times a week. The live event also featured talks by Mauro Mario Mariani – nutritionist from the Italian television programmes Linea Bianca, Linea Verde and Buongiorno Benessere; Elena Bauer – communication manager IFOM; Silvia Zucconi – head of market intelligence at Nomisma; and Silvia Trigilio – editor-in-chief of Il Giornale del Cibo.
In a society like ours that is increasingly fluid, what are the main characteristics that distinguish the habits of Italians on their lunch break? First of all, the time factor. The lunch break outside the home rarely lasts more than 40 minutes, for both students and workers. One out of five workers eats lunch in less than 20 minutes. The same is true for students: 19% take less than 20 minutes for their lunch break outside the home, and 52% take between 30 and 40 minutes. Having a company catering service means allowing yourself more time for your lunch break: 59% of respondents stated that they set aside 30 to 40 minutes for this moment of the day.
Where do Italians take their lunch break? The majority of students (75%) eat mainly at home, though there is a large percentage of those who eat lunch at their school two to three times a week. As regards the workers, 43% state that they have lunch in the office at least two to three times a week, while 45% go home for lunch.
What do Italians mainly eat at university or in their place of work? The data from the study speak for themselves: they mostly eat food cooked at, and brought from, home (65% of the workers and 78% of the students) or purchased foods that are ready to eat or only to heat, such as salads, soups and sandwiches (52% of the workers and 53% of the students). Widespread among the workers (21%) is the habit of ordering food online and picking it up as take-away – solutions determined by the absence of alternatives such as the presence of a company catering service.
The first factor that guides the choice of the place where the respondents go for their lunch break is practicality: students (22%) and workers (16%) agree that proximity to the place of study or work is the key element. The other factors taken into consideration include the time available and the taste/wholesomeness of the dishes offered. Despite what one might think, affordability – understood as the possibility to take advantage of special formulas, such as fixed-price menus – does not represent the priority guiding criterion, affecting mainly students (12%) more than workers (8%), but only as a complementary factor.
The eating styles adopted for lunch outside the home are more oriented toward health and wellness, with choices that fall on light/low-fat dishes and organic ingredients, but also on low-calorie and high-protein options.
In the last six months, for lunch outside the home, 32% of the students consumed dishes with organic/natural ingredients, 31% opted for low-fat dishes, and 23% preferred high-protein menus.
The same can be said for workers, who also prefer meals that are light (38%), natural/organic (34%), and low-calorie (23%). It is not surprising, then, that Italian cuisine – traditional or typical regional – is still universally the most popular for both targets (over 90% of the sample), though there is an increasing fondness for oriental cuisine (Japanese and Chinese), the most favoured in terms of ethnic food, followed by Greek and Latin cuisine, especially Mexican and Brazilian.
HIGH LEVEL OF SATISFACTION WITH COMPANY CATERING
The survey also showed a general level of satisfaction of workers who use the company catering services, where 7 out of 10 respondents stated that they were satisfied with the service offered. In particular, the most appreciated aspects regard the catering staff: 76% of those who use the catering service appreciate their professionalism and courtesy, as well as the flavour of the dishes and the variety and rotation of the menus (appreciated by 70% and 64% of the target, respectively).
BUT WHAT WOULD THE PERFECT LUNCH BREAK BE LIKE?
What are the characteristics of the ideal lunch break for Italians? Three words suffice to describe it: tasty, economical, fast. Taste is still the number one desire for the lunch of students and workers (an attribute indicated by 59% and 57%, respectively), possibly accompanied by the right price (66% of the students, 49% of the workers).
The ideal lunch outside the home is also one that includes light/low-fat dishes for 46% of the workers who use the company catering service.
HABITS AND LIFESTYLES
Though Italians prefer home-cooked food, they are open to new foods and ethnic influences.
Spices are now part of everyday life for at least one out of five Italians. In addition to turmeric, curry and cumin, the new ingredients also include couscous, quinoa, ginger and avocado. Superfoods are still not widely consumed: cranberries, chia seeds and goji berries are the ones that attract the most interest. The limited inclination to consume these foods is still tied to the lack of knowledge about the products and their potential health benefits.
There is also extensive interest in eating away from home in relation to the characteristics of the ingredients: raw materials from traceable and controlled supply chains, locally sourced and organic. There is also strong interest in the environmental impact related to food production.
The campaign of Il Giornale del Cibo:
USERS AFFIRM THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A COMPANY RESTAURANT
Following #CrescereAtavola, the campaign that in 2018 focused on the issue of childhood obesity, Il Giornale del Cibo,
the online magazine of gastronomic culture and food information published by CIRFOOD, this year launched #BuonaPausaPranzo, an initiative to investigate the most common habits of the lunch break, raising awareness of the importance that also lunch consumed outside the home should always be healthy, varied, and balanced.
Conducted on a panel of more than 61,000 users, using tests and surveys, the research showed that the lunch break is essential for eight out of ten users and that the majority of them (73% of the sample) prefer a complete meal in a canteen or in a facility with a kitchen.
The users of Il Giornale del Cibo also prove to be particularly virtuous in terms of the choice of food to eat at lunch, preferring the daily consumption of pasta, rice, grains, fruit and vegetables and, at least once a week, legumes and fish.
Although only 35% of the respondents stated that they work for a company that offers an in-house catering service, the majority (80%) believe that it is an important service to offer the employees.
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