Millennials and the Future of Food

The Lempert Report
May 09, 2014

Millennials have cut back annual restaurant visits by 21% over the last seven years

According to a new study from RBC Capital Markets, millennials will be an important factor in the success of restaurant brands like Panera Bread, Wendy’s, Starbucks and more. Forbes magazine reports that Millennials represent a quarter of the U.S. population and holds $1.3 trillion in spending power, so restaurants might want to pay close attention to their tastes and habits if they want to get Millennials through their doors.   So what does this group like? Fresh ingredients and the convenience of online and mobile ordering! 

This new study analyses data compiled by  RBC and the NPD Group, and results show that Millennials have cut back annual restaurant visits by 21% over the last seven years. In addition, higher-income Millennials are cutting back on restaurant visits at a faster rate than lower-income Millennials, visiting casual dining chains 29% less in 2012 than they did in 2006 versus lower income Millennials’ 12% drop in casual dining visits during that same time period. 

Despite cutting back at restaurants, RBC and the NPD Group data did show however that Millennials have driven significant traffic and revenue increases at “relatively inexpensive brands” like Chipotle, Panera and Starbucks. Why?  Most likely it's their strong digital presence and a willingness to invest in quality, fresh, ingredients.

Dining chains or supermarkets eyeing the millennial group will need to appeal to their sensibilities: food authenticity, convenience and a digital presence.  The study shows that restaurants with these assets will succeed with millennials. Supermarkets can learn from this data also.  Millennials want quality food that's  easy and accessible. Retailers with fresh and healthy prepared foods will do well with this group, just as those with a strong digital platform will appeal to their desire for mobile convenience.