How Millennials Are Reshaping the Restaurant Industry

couple in restaurant
Joana Lopes /

Millennials take a lot of flak. They’ve been criticized for job-hopping, refusing to move out of their folks’ basements and even endangering the financial security of the U.S. Most recently they’ve been blamed for struggles at some well-known casual dining chains.

In a recent letter to shareholders, Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith said America’s young adults have created a “uniquely challenging market” for casual dining restaurants. Smith writes:

“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. Mall traffic has slowed. And, surprisingly, television viewership of sporting events (important for us, especially) is down.”

Is Smith right? Or have millennials become an easy scapegoat for the struggling casual dining industry?

“While blaming millennials has become a trend to the point of cliche in retail, Smith isn’t wrong to zero in on younger customers’ changing tastes as a major factor in casual dining’s downfall,” says Business Insider.

It’s important to recognize that there are simply more food options and restaurants today than in the past, so casual dining chains like Buffalo Wild Wings, Ruby Tuesday and Applebee’s have a lot more competition.

“Now there’s many, many options that people are replacing chains with,” Victor Fernandez, the executive director of insights at the restaurant-industry tracker TDn2K, recently told Business Insider.

Interestingly, according to Nation’s Restaurant News, a recent poll revealed that — across all restaurant sectors, including burger chains, casual dining, coffee chains, ice cream eateries, chicken chains and sandwich shops –millennials give higher marks to restaurant chains than older diners.

“Restaurant chains have invested heavily in technology, such as mobile ordering, payment and kiosks, in part to win over a generation that has grown up using iPhones and social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook,” explains Restaurant News.

If you like to eat out, but you also love to save money, check out “12 Way to Slice Your Next Restaurant Check in Half.”

Do you think millennials are creating new challenges for the restaurant industry? Sound off below or on Facebook.

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