Gen Z is the only major demographic projected to increase its use of restaurants in the next five years, as Millennials, Gen X and baby boomers are all expected to eat more meals at home, according to new research from The NPD Group.
Much of this shift is the result of natural changes related to age and life stage, researchers note. But the massive size of the Millennial and boomer generations, in particular, means millions of customers may be moving away from restaurants in the coming years — unless operators find ways to meet their changing needs.
Generation Z, or those born between 1995 after 2015 will enter into a peak restaurant life stage by 2024, and an estimated 3.6% increase in population the next five years, driven largely by immigration, is expected to have a “slightly positive impact on restaurant industry traffic,” NPD’s David Portalatin said.
At the same time, Millennials, Gen X and baby boomers will enter life stages that move them away from eating at restaurants and toward eating more meals at home.
For restaurant operators, emphasizing convenience is the way to keep these customers, NPD said.
“Ready-to-eat is going to become an important part of at-home meals” Portalatin said. “[It’s an] opportunity for foodservice operators to participate in prepared side of the equation.”
In fact, foods that require zero prep are increasingly a part of what these consumers eat at home, NPD found. In-home food preparation trends show that 14 percent of meals eaten in the home included an item that required no time to prepare, up from just 11 percent in 2013.
To appeal to consumers of varying ages, lifestyles and behaviors — especially those eating more meals at home or work — restaurateurs are leaning in to new service models. Here’s a look at how two restaurant companies are doing it.
Everytable: Meeting meal preppers’ needs
Everytable, a new concept in Los Angeles, is working to make meals easier for working professionals and families in the Los Angeles market.
“Today, more than ever, people want meals that fit within their busy lives,” said Sam Polk, co-founder and CEO. “At Everytable our mission is to make it as simple and affordable as possible for our guests to enjoy healthy meals by stopping into one of our storefronts, through our subscription service or via our Smartfridges in offices or on a campus.”
Everytable meals — which include salads, grain bowls and hot plates — are made from scratch in a central kitchen, individually packaged, and then sent to one of seven grab-and-go storefronts, as well as to subscription guests and to Smartfridges on campuses and in office settings throughout the Los Angeles market.
The menu items are billed as being similar in quality to fast-causal or casual-dining eateries and are priced according to individual neighborhood to ensure affordability for all. Everytable meals in underserved communities start at $5 while meals in more upscale communities start at $7 to $8.
Polk said 85% to 90% of the meals offered are eaten off premise, Polk said. The concept’s heaviest users are meal preppers — working professionals, who make lunches for the week ahead of time, or families that need to fill in lunch and dinner gaps throughout the week.
The concept has been so well-received that Polk said plans now call for 20 to 25 new locations throughout Los Angeles within the next year, with later expansion into new markets.
Lettuce Entertain You: Delivering convenience
Chicago-based multiconcept company Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, aims to be a part of the in-home meal solution for today’s consumers with the recent debut of two delivery-only concepts, Whole30, Delivered and Bon Appetit, Delivered.
“We've seen that more guests are looking to enjoy delicious food at home or work,” said Scott Barton, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ executive partner and divisional president.
“Having virtual restaurants is a great way to offer more variety for guests and it allows us to be more nimble as we experiment with new offerings and concepts that will appeal to consumers across many different ages and lifestyles.”
Whole30, Delivered, which launched about two months ago, is intended as a one-stop shop for people who are on the Whole30 diet program; Bon Appetit, Delivered, which launched earlier this month serves favorite recipes from Bon Appetit magazine’s popular Test Kitchen.
Barton says both concepts have been very well-received so far. Whole30, Delivered, for example, has already earned repeat orders from guests.
“We're just excited to provide guests more options as they look to enjoy high-quality and convenient food at home.”
LEYE, which has more than 120 restaurants under multiple brands, operates in Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, California, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.