What is 'Lunchflation'?

Eric E. Surbano

30 May 2022

Workplaces are opening back up and returning to normal, but employees are spending more than they did pre-pandemic

As the whole world starts to learn to live with Covid instead of expecting its complete eradication, pre-pandemic normalcy is slowly coming back. Offices have started opening up once again so workers can return. Now that employees are coming back, however, they find themselves hit hard with “lunchflation”.

A CNN article published on May 24 coined the term in regards to the higher prices of food and coffee that puts a strain on the wallets of workers coming back to the office. The US Labor Department said that it saw recorded a 7.2% increase over the last year for the index for food away from home, making office workers think twice before getting coffee or going out to eat with colleagues during their break.

“Before, you could get lunch for $7 to $12. Now there is no way you can get a decent lunch for less than $15," said one of the people interviewed in the article. And for those who have started bringing lunch from home in hopes of saving, The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that grocery prices were up 10.8% and food prices up 9.4% from April of last year.

An increase in food prices isn’t the only thing haunting returning employees. Gas prices have shot up nearly double. One person in the article said that she tries her best to run errands during her lunch break or after work to save on gas and does her best not to leave the house when she’s working from home. Other increased expenses for workers potentially include office attireapparel prices have shot up 5.4%—and childcare.

While these numbers are all from the US, the Bangkok Post has reported continuously that “commodity prices have been rising” here in Thailand and that inflation remains high. A few months back, the rising prices of staples like pork, poultry, and palm oil forced many street vendors, whom the Thai labour force depends on for affordable meals, to increase their prices by a couple of baht. For employees who occasionally liked to treat themselves at a restaurant like Sizzler, well, Sizzler has increased their prices as well, citing the pandemic and the Ukrainian war. As for gas, anyone who drives knows just how expensive the prices have gotten. 

Despite the waning fear of the pandemic and the return to normalcy, “lunchflation” may perhaps be the latest struggle employees will have to deal with as they return to their desks and cubicles.