Generation X Could Be the Restaurant Industry's Best Hope
Baby Boomers and Millennials dine out the most, but Gen X-ers aren't far behind.
Last month, Business Insider garnered a lot of attention with the provocative headline “Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee’s.” In the publication’s defense, the idea wasn’t pulled out of thin air: Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith implied as much in a letter to shareholders the month before. “Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants and eating quickly, in fast-casual or quick-serve restaurants,” Smith surmised. (Buffalo Wild Wings has, in turn, announced a fast-casual spin-off.) This theory has actually become a common refrain for many in the restaurant industry. And if it’s true, there’s only one place to turn apparently: Generation X!
According to recent research from the NPD Group, Generation X – which it defines as those between the ages of 36 and 52 – could be the aforementioned “elders” the restaurant world has been seeking. The study suggests that Gen X now makes up 23 percent of all restaurant visits. That’s still below millennials at 25 percent and Baby Boomers at 26 percent, but not by much. “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 in a statement.
NPD also points out that unlike millennials – who are being pegged as wanting speed, convenience and quality, all at an affordable price point, preferably without having to deal with anyone – what Gen Xers are looking for is a bit more in line with a traditional restaurant ethos. They're craving satisfying, quality food with the ability to customize their order. Oh, and added bonus, Gen Xers are more likely to have a dual income, meaning more money to spend.
“In a competitive environment it’s important for restaurant operators to understand how to gain the attention of important consumer groups,” Riggs said.
Exactly. And would it kill them to play some grunge music?