The lunch crowd at the Panera Cares Cafe in Dearborn, Mich.
Smacked-down by the economic downturn, Millennials are doing something that no previous generation of 18-to-34-year-olds has done before them: eating out less.
Millennials are eating out roughly once a week less than the same age group’s eating habits in 2007, according to an eye-opening report out Monday from NPD Group.
“This is a shift of biblical proportions for the restaurant industry,” says Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at researcher NPD Group, which surveyed 2,400 adults 18 to 34 nationwide. “I’ve done this for 35 years, and we could always count on this age group as the biggest restaurant users. But not the last five years.”
The news is a punch in the gut for $632 billion restaurant industry, which is already struggling. Its most important generation of eaters appears to be drifting away. Behind this cultural change is a generation utterly unable to rebound from the financial effects of the recession. Many who are unemployed or underemployed are returning home with their heads down and their hands out. This, in turn, is slowing the growth of the restaurant industry and left it in a nasty battle for market share.
The statistics are jarring: Millennials will eat out 202 times annually this year vs. 252 times a year back in 2007. Not only are adults 35 to 49 going out to eat more than Millennials, but so are adults over age 50. Until recently, Millennials were the generation that could always be counted on to eat out more than anyone else. They don’t spend more, but they have historically eaten out more. Now, even that is changing.
“The load of the recession has hit them harder than anyone else,” says Balzer.
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