Agency News

P+N Identifies “Mealtime Outsiders” as Next Audience to Disrupt Food and Restaurant Marketing

New report shows 32 million Americans eat outside traditional mealtimes, creating opportunities for marketers to rethink day part strategy, messaging, and menu options
February 2, 2023

Partners + Napier, a leading integrated creative and media company, has released its newest research report, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Have We Ditched Day Parts?” which sheds light on the 32 million Americans who report eating outside traditional mealtimes, calling them “Mealtime Outsiders.” The report explores why Mealtime Outsiders eat at off hours, what motivates their food choices throughout the day, their attitudes about dining and cooking, as well as emerging opportunities for marketers to meet their needs. This is the second installment in the Hidden in Plain Sight series, where the Partners + Napier strategy and media teams combine forces to uncover new, high-value audiences across categories.

“The pandemic created major and lasting disruptions to the traditional dining routine — millions of Americans retired early and those who didn’t are working longer hours and facing increased demands. Those who retired are no longer bound to a set schedule, whereas many workers are unable to eat how and when they want to because of their working conditions, “ said Janine Perry, Director of Brand Strategy at Partners + Napier. “Uncertainty with the economy is also playing a role, with many people looking for restaurant meals or takeout options that provide the best value and can stretch into leftovers.”

Mealtime Outsiders cite their most common eating windows as 10 am -11 am, 2 pm - 5 pm, and 8 pm - 7 am. Overall, they are eating later, and letting their needs dictate their dining decisions rather than trying to stick to a schedule. With all of the stress they face in their daily lives — whether it’s work, family, or being constantly bombarded with stressful events in the news — Mealtime Outsiders report that eating on a schedule is more pressure than it’s worth. Food and restaurant brands that then portray mealtimes as fitting neatly into traditional day parts are creating a narrative that’s out of step with consumers’ reality.

While their needs and desires throughout the day play a significant role in their eating decisions, Mealtime Outsiders are also looking at ways to prioritize their food budgets. In times of recession or when finances are tight, 60% of Mealtime Outsiders cite delivery as the first thing they cut, followed by eating out (53%) and ordering takeout (52%). Finding ways to indulge continues to be a priority, with only 22% of this audience saying they would cut back on treats or snacks.

Added Greg Smith, Partners + Napier Group Director of Media and Communications Planning, “Mealtime Outsiders are not just relying on food as fuel, but as a way to help them meet the moment, whether that’s to focus and be productive, or to relax and indulge. There is an opportunity for brands to pair this insight about the Mealtime Outsider audience with a media strategy designed to reach them where and when they’re making their meal decisions, instead of following the traditional day part playbook.”

Download the full report here