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Generation Gaps Hits Restaurant Usage, Too: Study

Age-based distinctions among consumers’ use of restaurants run deeper than originally expected, according to a recently-released report from foodservice consultants Technomic.

The findings, published in the new Generational Consumer Trend Report, reveal numerous and often-subtle factors that play an important role in shaping menu and restaurant trends. It also highlights key opportunities to effectively market to these segments.

The report examines attitudes and behavior relevant to restaurant services for three generational segments: the Baby Boomers (age 43 to 62); Generation X (age 32 to 42); and Millennials (age 16 to 31). In addition, it looks at differences across and within each generation. For example, key findings are presented for younger versus older Millennials, including insights pertaining to ethnicity and gender, including special topics such as Internet ordering, brand preferences, and preferences by dining occasion.

“We’re in a highly competitive market, one in which many consumers are shifting what were formerly discretionary dollars toward the purchase of necessities,” said Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic Information Services. It’s more important than ever for restaurant operators to understand what their consumers are looking for in the dining experience and tailor their offering to it. To do that, operators and suppliers must have information that lets them get into the heads of the consumer both by generational segment and psychographic cluster.”
Among the findings presented within the report:

Millennials are the largest users of natural and organic foods, whereas Baby Boomers are more likely to believe in balanced meals, consumption of fruits and vegetables, and avoidance of fats.

Boomers are far more interested in limiting trans fat consumption than are other generations. The majority of Boomers interviewed (51 percent) said they avoided trans fats on a regular basis, as opposed to 34 percent for Millennials and 37 percent for Gen Xers. Nearly half of all Millennials eat more meals away from home than at home, a larger proportion than among Gen Xers or Boomers. Only four in 10 Gen Xers dine out more frequently than they eat at home, while Boomers tend to reserve dining out for special occasions.

Though all three generations rated freshly prepared food as a very important factor in choosing a restaurant, they differed in the importance of other factors. Nearly half of Millennials (45 percent) and Boomers (45 percent) said that the opportunity to increase or decrease portion size is important in choosing a restaurant for a dine-in meal, whereas availability of kid-friendly menus was important to 47 percent of Gen Xers.

Millennials are most open to ordering foodservice via the Internet, though ordering preferences differ between males and females. Women are far more likely than men to place online orders for takeout (36 percent for females vs. 21 percent for males), with the difference increasing for delivery orders (48 percent for females, 30 percent for men).

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