By Hugh Robert
Don’t look now, but there’s a whole new generation of restaurant customers coming. As the Baby Boomer generation begins to “age out” of the restaurant market, a new demographic, Generation Z, is replacing them.
Boomers, whose affluence as well as sheer numbers have made them a prime target market for restaurants, especially the more traditional table service independents, are increasingly turning away from “going out to dinner.”
The reasons are many and varied — personal mobility limitations; unwillingness to drive, especially after dark; and new lifestyle choices, such as senior living communities, but the impact seems obvious — a slow but steady decline in the number of Baby Boomer dining out occasions.
Another reason Baby Boomers — defined as those born between 1943 and 1964 — are eating out less: nearly 20 percent of them have died off.
Recent research by the National Restaurant Association flagged another aspect of this shift in demand. Baby boomers, the telephone survey discovered, have a high level of interest in take out and delivery, with more than half of the respondents indicating they’d like to order delivery more often than they do. It seems likely, then, that Boomer dollars will soon migrate to delivery rather than on-site dining.
Restaurants of all types, it seems, need to be recalibrating their menu, service styles, and marketing to appeal to a younger demographic, especially Generation Z (those born after the year 2000). That group has already replaced the Baby Boom generation as the largest generational group in terms of sheer numbers, and it’s the industry’s challenge to find ways to attract these future customers with the dining experience for which they’ll be looking in the years ahead.