Restaurants’ hot new demographic: Older diners

Boomers are growing their share of restaurant traffic, according to a new report.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Past restaurant marketing campaigns have usually featured sexy patrons having a good time with friends or their adorable young families. But according to new research, maybe it’s time food-service companies started focusing more on silver foxes.

Historically, baby-boomer consumers and older customers have been less likely than younger peers to visit dining establishments. But that’s changed since the recession, according to the NPD Group research firm.

In the last five years, graying patrons have grabbed an increasing share of restaurant traffic, with more visits to every segment of the restaurant industry than before the downturn. So-called millennials under age 35, however, have started staying away, according to Tuesday’s report.


Since 2008, restaurant visits from older diners has risen six percentage points, NPD said. Millennial traffic has decreased by the same measure.

Overall patronage grew 1% for the year ended September 2012 but is still down from 2008.

Chains may already be catching on, with increased focus on breakfast options from McDonald’s, Wendy’s and more.

Morning-meal visits have recovered to their pre-recession levels, with boomers and the elderly to thank, according to NPD.


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