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Nothing is safe. 

Elisabeth Sherman
November 15, 2017

Economists can’t seem to make up their minds about millennials. On the one hand, they seem to be destroying every industry from diamonds to hotels to getting married. They’re to blame for putting Applebee’s, TGI Friday’s, and Buffalo Wild Wings out of business, and they’ve somehow managed to hurt the sale of good wine, while simultaneously being obsessed with rosé, to the point that the beer industry is now suffering at their blood-soaked hands. Cruel millennials are responsible for driving McDonald’s to extinction, too, and while they’re at it, they’ve even come for the entire concept of lunch. The only places they seem to like are Olive Garden and Red Lobster. A new report, released by Merrill Lynch today, seems to compound the murderous intentions of millennials: They are indeed killing restaurants.

According to CNBC, the Merrill Lynch study, which focused on “government retail sales,” found that restaurant sales are slowing down at an alarming rate in the past three years. In the millennial age group, restaurant spending was at “9 percent year over year in 2015 to just 1.6 percent now.” And don’t try to explain away the trend by pointing out that they might just be cooking at home more often to save money. According to Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Merrill Lynch, supermarket spending is slow, too.

Have millennials taken up fasting? Are they drinking Soylent and forgoing food altogether? Not exactly—Meyer hypothesizes that online grocery sales might account for the slow down and that many people are going out to eat less, but spending more when they do indulge in a restaurant visit.

A wrinkle in the Merrill Lynch study pops up when you consider that a recent Bankrate survey found that some millennials claim to eat out as many five times per week. So what is going on with millennials? Perhaps it’s best to stop trying to figure out their habits or blame them for the slow decline of retail. Let their motivations and desires remain a mystery, like the Holy Grail or Atlantis.