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Food & Wine says Gen X may be restaurant industry’s “best hope.”

Posted On February 17, 2018

If you think millennials will be the death of chain restaurants, you may be surprised to hear they and other eateries may have a savior – Generation X.

About a month after Business Insider proclaimed last year that millennials were “killing” chain restaurants, Food & Wine magazine cited research from the NPD group showing that Gen-Xers may be “the restaurant industry’s best hope.”

According to the study, Gen-Xers make up 23 percent of all restaurant visits. That’s slightly behind Baby Boomers (26 percent) and millennials (25 percent), but Generation X is significantly smaller than both. According to newstrategist.com, Gen-Xers made up only a little over 15 percent of the U.S. population in 2016, compared to almost 23 percent for Baby Boomers and nearly 25 percent for millennials.

Can’t you just see the possibilities? An ‘80s-themed restaurant with wait staff in Pat Benetar haircuts and leg warmers or Miami Vice sport coats with the sleeves rolled up and TVs blaring MTV music videos. A ‘90s grunge greasy spoon with tattooed cooks, cinder block walls and nightly performances by Nirvana and Soundgarden tribute bands. A full-scale, functional model of the diner in Seinfeld.

Why are Gen-Xers so important to the restaurant industry? Because they’re at a stage of life where they can enjoy the restaurant experience.

“Many Gen-Xers are looking to the convenience and experience restaurants offer because their kids are older and more independent,” NPD restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs told Food & Wine.

Having older and more independent kids means Gen-Xers are not only more likely to go out to eat, but to take their time about it. The Business insider piece specifically noted sit-down, casual dining chains as those being shunned by millennials in favor of quick-serve joints when they aren’t cooking at home.

The NPD study, meanwhile, found Gen-Xers prefer quality and customizable menu offerings and, since many are in dual-income households, have the bank to support their preferences.

So throw on a puffy shirt, crank up the Pearl Jam and oblige when a 40-something asks for no onions. That guy tapping his foot to “Jeremy” might end up being your best customer.

Categories: Generation X