Lunch time crowd on the decline

- There's no such thing as a free lunch, and it's partially why eating out mid-day is a dying tradition.

According to the market research firm NPD Group Inc., Americans made 433 million fewer trips to restaurants at lunch time last year, costing the industry $3.2 billion.

The study shows among the hardest hit are casual sit down restaurants because of the time it takes to order, sit down and pay. Restaurants are adapting by offering delivery, faster service and take-out. But the adaptation still poses trouble for the industry which makes most of its money by serving meals inside.

Despite the foot traffic decrease a lot of these restaurants made about the same money last year. That's because a lot of the menu prices increased, but restaurants can't continue to raise prices indefinitely.

"As a restaurateur you have to adapt to what you customers want," says co-owner of EE Hospitality Eric Perlmutter.

His company has noticed the trend and is finding ways to acclimate.

Each table at Hill and Bay, for example, is decorated with comment cards, they offer lunch specials, punch cards and promotional events to bring people in the door.

"You have to listen to what your customers want," Perlmutter says, "They want it fast they want it quickly."

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