Imagine going on a road trip with friends or family and stopping for a bite to eat.
Typically, stopping at a chain restaurant like Olive Garden or McDonald's is a safe bet because the same food standards are set across the country. It may take a more adventurous person to try out the local mom-and-pop eatery.
Yes, that up-and-coming generation of adults seems to have a love/hate relationship when it comes to the chain food industry. Technology has lent itself to increasing the amount of mobile delivery orders, but there are additional contributing factors pulling from both sides of the restaurant spectrum.
Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith says she believes casual dining has seen a decline in sales because of millennials. “Millennial consumers,” she says, “are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants, and eating quickly, in fast-casual or quick-serve restaurants.”
It appears that the culprit of the decline of casual dining could likely fall into the hands of places that are promoting fast casual dining like Chipotle and Panera Bread. While these places offer somewhat healthy options, typically these places are also inexpensive and take up minimal amounts of time from people's busy schedules. Between 1999 and 2014, the fast-casual dining space grew by 550 percent and is projected to reach revenue of $66.9 billion by 2020.
With millennials carrying much more student debt than prior generations, this could be a contributing factor in how much money and time they’re willing to spend on food.
But according to the latest EquiTrend Report from Harris Poll, which ranks brands of the year, millennials are not only determining the top brands, but they're hooked on chain restaurants, including Moe's Southwest Grill and Chick-fil-A. Within the study, it was found that millennials are ranking chain restaurants higher placement prior generations like baby boomers and Gen X.
What’s helping this generation rely on chain restaurants, according to some, are mobile devices and social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram.
Northeastern University associate professor of marketing at the D'Amore-McKim School of Business, Bruce Clark, commented on this trend. ”Last year, Starbucks reported a full quarter of in-store sales were being paid for through the app. Food makes for wonderful digital imagery. User-generated content probably helps here as well: A restaurant experience with friends is more likely to be shared through social media such as Snapchat than say, the purchase of a TV.”
Through the use of social media, millennials are displaying their food with the hashtag #foodporn or searching for new places to try. Through a study conducted by influencer marketing company Collective Bias, it was found that 81.4 percent of people actively search social sites for food ideas. It breaks down the most-used social sites for food into the following: Pinterest (86 percent), Instagram (28 percent), Facebook (25 percent) and Twitter (two percent).
As this generation moves forward, it’s likely that we’ll see an evolution of the restaurant industry as a whole. With places competing for low prices, quick service and quality food that’s photo worthy for social media, it’s possible that we’ll see restaurants taking the temperature of the public every few years to adjust their menus and practices accordingly.
Restaurants, it seems, are no longer a set-it and forget-it industry.