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Though young millennials are eating out more, Generation X drove the overall decline.

Mike Pomranz
September 26, 2017

Forget about breakfast being the most important meal of the day; for restaurants, the most important meal is almost certainly dinner. When diners come in to eat, dinner checks are almost always larger than the other smaller (and less booze accentuated) daytime meals. So a recent stat revealed by market research team the NPD Group certainly can't be good news for the restaurant industry: In the year ending this past June, dinner visits dropped the most year-over-year since 2013.

According to the NPD Group, annual dinner visits for all consumers dropped to just 57 occasions per year on average, down from 59 visits the year before and 62 visits back in 2013. Interestingly, in the past year, visits among the heavily targeted young millennial demographic of 18- to 24-year-olds was up three visits, and visits by older millennials (ages 25 to 34) remained the same, but the often neglected Generation X saw the largest decline, down three visits from the previous year. It was only this past July when NPD warned that targeting Generation X might be the restaurant industry's best hope for growth.

"Many Gen Xers are looking to the convenience and experience restaurants offer because their kids are older and more independent," Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst, said at the time. Apparently, the writing was already on the wall.

This time around, Riggs suggested the one of the biggest problems restaurant's face is they focus too much on price instead of the experience of dining. "Do [consumers] like family meal deals, specials? Of course they do," Riggs told Nation's Restaurant News. "But it's not all about that." Instead, millennials often see eating out as a treat or reward, and Gen Xers often go out to eat simply because it's more fun than eating at home. "They can get more of that business if they do it right," Riggs suggested. Yeah, all restaurants have to do is create an experience that is fun for people in their 30s and 40s, but is considered a treat by people in their 20s! How hard is… uh… that?

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