The gloves are off in the fight between foodservice and grocery retailers for the lunch trade.

As many supermarkets put their weight behind lunch meal deals, high street restaurants and fast food chains are adopting tactics straight out of the grocery playbook.

Pret a Manger, for example, launched a £5 baguette and snack deal in January.

“With the cost of living crisis impacting people across the country, this year we wanted to introduce new products and deals that give customers more choice and value for money, while ensuring our products are not compromised,” said interim MD Guy Meakin on the launch.

Pret’s not alone in challenging the supers in terms of price and perks.

Leon, for instance, has a hot food meal deal that starts at £3.99, and chains from Burger King to Wasabi have been pushing loyalty schemes to lure punters.

Take McDonald’s, which last July announced the launch of its MyMcDonald’s Rewards scheme. It grants the user one point for every penny spent on menu items ordered using the McDonald’s app. Points can be redeemed for burgers, fries, shakes and the like.

“As well as rewarding our customers with our iconic menu items, we’re delighted to give customers the option of donating points to our brilliant charity partners, which we know will make an incredible difference to the lives of many thousands of young people and families across the country,” said McDonald’s UK chief marketing officer Michelle Graham-Clare at the time.

The driver behind all these schemes and deals is clear. “Thirty-nine per cent of Brits have been forced to cut back spending on eating out over the past six months due to cost of living pressures,” says Itsu Grocery assistant brand manager Mary Crichton.

The mults are most likely to benefit, as the economic squeeze leads “to increased lunch occasions from supermarkets, either pre-packed lunchboxes or supermarket food to go, to cut down on spend,” she adds. “This is starting to play out with retail enjoying a 1ppt increase in its share of the UK’s food to go market, and this is expected to continue to rise as grocery capitalises on value-seeking trends.”

So the hunt for lunchtime value looks set to continue – as does the fight between foodservice and grocery.

The new business lunch: lunchbox category report 2023