Generational trends may impact restaurants

trends impacting restaurantsBIZMOLOGY — Young adults between 18 and 30 years old are dining out at restaurants much less than previous generations, a trend that could mean trouble for the restaurant industry over the next decade. According to a report in the New York Times, market researcher NPD Group found that restaurant visits by millennials have declined more than 15 percent over the last four years, a pattern of behavior that could hold the dining sector to just 4 percent growth over the next 10 years.

The weak economy and stagnant job market, which have had a greater impact on young people, explain part of the decline, but the research seems to suggest that this generational group is more discerning about when and where they dine out. Millennials are more likely to patronize establishments that specialize in locally sourced and sustainable foods when they do eat out than to spend time at chain restaurants or fast-food joints. This trend is already starting to affect some chain restaurant giants: McDonald’s, for instance, recently introduced new menu items like its McWrap sandwich specifically to target millennials.

While younger adults are dining out less, restaurant visits by older Americans appear to be on the rise. Restaurant traffic among baby boomers and those over the age of 65 rose about 6 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to NPD Group. Financial stability and approaching retirement age could be helping to encourage baby boomers to dine out more often. If this trend continues, some restaurants may need to consider upgrades that can appeal to older customers, such as menus with larger type and more comfortable seating.


Photo by Son of Groucho, used under a Creative Commons license

Joe Bramhall

Joe Bramhall has been researching and writing about companies and industries for Hoover's for more than a decade. He joined the First Research editorial team in 2010. He specializes in the leisure and entertainment industries.

Read more articles by Joe Bramhall.


  1. This is interesting. We can see a vast cultural chasm between millennials & their parents here. USA Today reported back in May that spending at restaurants has hit an all-time high & then we see the millennials are spending significantly less at restaurants than their parents.

    Retirement must taste sweeter when someone else carries the financial burden. Student loan debt is a growing bubble whose size & scope is second only to mortgage debt. There is more happening here than just a shifting of tastes.

  2. That’s actually a very pertinent observation. I think there could be something to it.

  3. Catherine says:

    Could it be that these millennials are actually going out to eat JUST as often — with their parents footing the bill? That’s how it works in MY family.
    And the 65-year-olds + tend to treat eating out as entertainment and why not.

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