WFH is shifting household food spend from the CBD to the suburbs

The Mealpulse food panel confirms 40% of Australian households now have at least 1 member working from home (WFH). 

This pattern has firmed post-COVID and has been strengthened by commuting cost savings that have eased household cost-of-living pressures.

CBD day-time populations have shrunk leading to sharp reductions in Restaurant & Café spend, especially for those dependent on breakfast & lunch dayparts.

As CBD worker numbers settle lower to reflect firmer WFH patterns, more food service outlets have closed, with forecasts estimating this will impact up to 35% of CBD outlets. Fewer commuters on Public Transport create the daunting prospect of fares needing to be increased. 

Inner city councils are scrambling to lift the daytime pulse of their CBD’s and that has included winding back the measures introduced in recent years to deter inner-city parking. This dynamic feeds into a spiral that is unlikely to be reversed, ending with parts of the CBDs vacant & pedestrian-free. The speed of change has been too difficult to counter. 

However, food spend doesn’t disappear it just moves around, albeit $100 of food service spend that moves to retail food will only require $50 spend to get the same volumes of food. Households involved in WFH have a stronger commitment to eating out with suburban food service outlets enjoying a lift and retail food being up in volume. 

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