Between the rise in raw materials and energy prices, not to mention the indexation of salaries, it is clear that the cost of living is becoming increasingly expensive. However, the face value of luncheon vouchers--chèques-repas--has not increased since the 2017 tax reform. Some companies have even kept the older €8.40 vouchers, as the 30% increase to pay for the €10.80 is directly attributed to them. Others, whose employers have updated the system, receive a monthly envelope of 18 vouchers worth €10.80.
But is it even possible to get a full meal for €10.80 in Luxembourg?
In restaurants with table service in Luxembourg-City, this is near impossible, confirms François Koepp, secretary general of the hospitality federation. "That's why some people use two or three vouchers and go to restaurants less often," he explains. A quick tour of the establishments in the centre, Kirchberg, Gare and Cloche d'Or--the top four spots for office workers--confirms this: the best value lunch deals start at around €20.
Burgers and sandwiches within budget
It’s only possible to stay below the sum for lunch at some of the fast food restaurants, such as Quick--which offers a "Lux Menu" for €10, provided you limit yourself to certain burgers. As for Burger King, quite a few menus are within the budget. Some options are lower than €8.40 vouchers too.
Subway offers a daily menu for €6.30 euros. At this price, the sandwich is 15cm long, but it comes with a dessert and a drink.
Besides the big chains, there are also local players, such as Luxembourg butcher Emo, which offers a burger menu for €10.80 in its outlet on avenue de la Gare.
On the sandwich menu, the horizon is lighting up. For example, Paul's offers three menus (salad, Paul's and Délice) for less than €10.80 euros. Many bakeries--like Fischer, Namur and Oberweis--offer sandwiches and wraps which are still below the value of a luncheon voucher, even when combined with a drink.
Salads, on the other hand, are usually priced close to the face value of the more valuable voucher. It should be noted that chains also offer sandwiches. Cocottes has some available from €5.30, Exki and Atelier Steffen are in the same range, while baguettes have a starting price of €6.40 at Victorine.
Many employees prefer to go to the supermarket to buy their wraps and sandwiches. For example, Auchan offers menus at its counters for up to €10.80 euros including drinks.
Not just meal vouchers
This brief overview is far from exhaustive: some food courts in shopping centres offer formulas that are sometimes within the budget, such as the OrientX box menu in Kirchberg and the menus at Colombus Café in the Cloche d'Or.
The offer is also completed by a good number of operators offering lunch delivery at the workplace or at home, as a result of teleworking. Some employees have a canteen at their workplace, which allows them to eat at advantageous rates.
Others enjoy the best of both worlds, such as consultants employed by private companies and receiving meal vouchers, who work in institutions and can therefore have access to catering services.
An unchanging budget
At €10.80, the face value of the meal voucher has not changed for five years. On 1 January 2017, the qualified social minimum wage was €2,398.30, 11% lower than it is now. The value of luncheon vouchers has not evolved accordingly.
Today, given inflation and the devaluation of our currency, the normal value of a meal voucher should be €17.50 or €18.
What if we revalued the luncheon voucher? The finance ministry told Delano’s sister publication Paperjam that no decision has yet been taken. Whether the subject has been discussed remains uncertain too. The previous revaluation of the voucher took place after two decades. "Today, given inflation and the devaluation of our currency, the normal value of a meal voucher should be €17.50 or €18," says Koepp.
He also advocates "limiting the use of vouchers for buying meals". It has to be said that many beneficiaries spend their vouchers in supermarkets, sometimes for purchases other than food. However, some restaurant owners are reluctant to accept these vouchers in the hotel and catering sector. They point to the operators' commission fees, which can reach 4% of the amount with digital formats. The two operators on the market did not respond to our requests.
In 2020, nearly 80,000 employees were receiving meal vouchers in Luxembourg. Sodexo provided 70% of the market and the rest was provided by its competitor Edenred.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.