For all the endless discussion over how terrible Millennials are – a Google search for “Millennials are” auto-populates with terms like “stupid” and “entitled” – this over-generalized generation represents a quarter of the U.S. population, holds $1.3 trillion in spending power, and according to a new study from RBC Capital Markets, will be an important driver of success for restaurant brands like Panera Bread, Wendy’s, Starbucks and more. With an affinity for fresh ingredients and the ability to order online or through a mobile app, RBC says that brands that have lost the Millennial diner would be wise to pay close attention to their tastes and habits if they want to get Millennials through their doors. However, with traffic data showing a decline in restaurant visits from this critical group, Millennials also have the power to cripple the very brands they stand to boost.
Roughly defined as young adults ages 18 to 33, Millennials have, in the past seven years, embarked on a trend that should make any restaurant owner scared stiff: they’ve slowed their restaurant visits. According to data compiled by RBC and the NPD Group, Millennials have cut back annual restaurant visits by 21% over the last seven years. While that may not seem like a lot, consider the following: McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King increased their traffic by 4% over that same period, but saw a 5% decline in traffic among low-income Millennials and a 16% drop from high-income Millennials.