BIZMOLOGY — 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.