From sun-dried tomato wraps to agave-sweetened smoothies, restaurant chains are working to court an exceptionally particular generation — the millennials.
For reasons as varied as the economic downturn and a heightened interest in local foods, a significant shift in eating patterns is under way among the millennials, those 18 to 30. Oddly, at least by historic trends, they are eating out less than the baby boomers did at that age. Many in the restaurant business worry that it may be impossible to reverse the decline, which affects 50 million to 60 million young people.
The statistics alone are stark. Restaurant visits among millennials have fallen 16 percent over the last four years, according to research by the NPD Group, a consumer marketing firm, and have failed to pick up as the economy has improved.
“The outlook for the restaurant industry over the next 10 years is dismal,” said Bonnie Riggs, a restaurant industry analyst at NPD.
Over all, sales are expected to grow less than 4 percent in the next decade, a troublesome projection for not only burger chains like McDonald’s but for the newer “fast-casual” dining businesses like Chipotle. McDonald’s stunned investors last month when it announced that its sales in stores open at least a year had fallen 1.2 percent after rising every quarter for almost the last decade. READ MORE