Lounari 50 years - how did used movie tickets become Finland's most popular employee benefit?

Lounari 50 years - how did used movie tickets become Finland's most popular employee benefit?

The year 2024 is a year of celebration, as Lounari, beloved by Finns, turns 50 years old!

The interesting history of lunch vouchers takes us back decades to an English restaurant and then to the Champs-Elysées in Paris. In the 1950s, businessman John Hack came up with the idea of a lunch benefit while dining at a restaurant, inspired restaurateur Jacques Borel created the Ticket Restaurant® lunch voucher in France in 1962. Borel's goal was to attract more customers to his restaurant with the voucher – a benefit that hasn't changed much for restaurateurs since then. The first vouchers were old movie tickets, with different colors representing the value of the voucher. Fortunately, Borel's vouchers were successful, and the French government declared lunch vouchers official employment benefits in 1967.

Luottokunta brought Lounari to Finland

In Finland, lunch benefits arrived in 1974 when Luottokunta launched Lounari. This marked the beginning of the development of Finland's lunch culture. Initially, the primary purpose of the lunch benefit was to encourage lunchtime meals during the workday and foster a relationship between employers and employees. It was important for employees' nutrition, refreshment, and recovery. The lunch benefit also aimed to promote more varied eating habits than what was typical with home cooking, a goal that hasn't changed in 50 years.

Later on, Luottokunta partnered with Nets Holding A/S to develop a card-based payment method for employment benefits. In 2012, Luottokunta sold its entire business to Nets. Lounari became part of Edenred in 2014 through a business acquisition when Edenred purchased the Meal and Leisure Voucher business from Nets.

Lunch refreshes and recharges

Since its launch, the lunch benefit has been an important part of Finnish work culture and is now the most popular employee benefit. Lounari allows employees to take a refreshing break, while providing restaurants with a customer base. The use of the lunch benefit has increased by about 19 percent in the past two years. Almost all of the employers who offer a lunch benefit offer their employees the maximum value, which is 850 euros tax-free per year before holiday deductions. This means that every fifth meal is provided by the employer. Use our calculator to see how much you can save with your lunch benefit.

Studies show that employees who utilize the lunch benefit in restaurants eat healthier than those who cook at home. Dining out for lunch has the most significant impact on the diets of middle-aged men. It's not uncommon for men to only eat salads at restaurants. Therefore, men who use the lunch benefit eat healthier in Finland. Nowadays, 65 percent of Finns who have lunch on workdays get their meals from restaurants. Only 18 percent bring homemade food. A phenomenon brought about by remote work is food delivery services, which 46 percent of restaurant lunch eaters use regularly.

The 50 years of the lunch benefit also reflect the development of Finnish payment methods. While lunch vouchers were once reused movie tickets, Lounari users can now easily pay for their meals with their phones using Apple Pay or Google Pay for contactless payments, instead of vouchers, physical payment cards, or mobile payments.

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