Before 2008, the age group that most frequented restaurants and spent the most money in them were Generation X’ers and Millenials. But after the economy tanked, people under the age of 48 started to save their dollars and not eat out at restaurants so much.
In fact, Research out of NPD Social Research Group revealed that in 2012, BBoomers spent 220 hours in restaurants, bars, or passing through drive-thru’s. And, Boomers were spending more of their dollars eating out than any other previous generation in their age group. According to the National Restaurant Association, Boomers in the 55-64 age groups spent an average of $1,243. That is about $300 more than the under 25-year-old age groups.
As such, restaurants are now switching their marketing focus to the people spending all the time and money – Boomers. They’re doing such things as making fast food places look more like higher end restaurants in their furniture and decor (many McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s have added casual seating around fireplaces), and also adding bifocal friendly lighting. They’re also changing their menus to cater to Boomer-friendly concerns – maintaining health while still eating something that tastes good. Lower sodium, lower sugar, and gluten-free foods are taking the place of the usual fare. For healthy choices, Subway was voted the top fast-food restaurant for those 50 and over.
“As people get older, their taste buds kind of erode,” said Kim Holman, director of marketing for Wixon, a flavorings and seasonings company. “So chipotle and other chili peppers are making more appearances on menus, often in condiments or sauces, and other bold Latin American and pan-Asian flavors are creeping onto mainstream American menus”, Holman said.
But restaurants also want to strike a happy balance with Boomer-focused menus. Holman continued, “Boomers expect to be able to treat themselves when they want something sweet or fattening. The number one reason people go out to eat is to indulge themselves or to celebrate something.”