The research, released yesterday (14 May) by Santa Maria Foodservice, examined how the habits and flavour preferences of four generations effect the eating-out market.
Millennials (aged 18-34) eat out three times as often as over 65’s, the report found. Along with Generation X (aged 35-49), they favour speed and are more likely to use grab and go or supermarket options.
Baby Boomers (aged 50-64) and War Babies (65+) prefer a longer dining experience and are more likely to use coffee shops and the pub sector where traditional British dishes are often staples.
The report found that respondents across all age groups increasingly prefer bolder and spicier flavours.
Nearly half of all Millennials said they liked hotter food more than they did three years ago, and 80 per cent of 50-64 year olds said they enjoyed spicy foods - rating Indian among their top three favourite cuisines.
Tastes vary with age
A key trend was tastes becoming more conservative with age, with older respondents less likely to choose new dishes on the menu.
Millennials are the most adventurous with their choices when eating out but are more concerned with value, with 47 per cent put off trying new dishes by the price and fear of wasting money.
Just five per cent of over 65’s preferred to try something new when eating out, with almost half favouring British cuisine.
Burgers, Italian and Mexican cuisine were favoured by the young, while seafood was more popular with the older generations.
Sixty per cent of over 65's said the menu description was the most important factor to encourage them to try new dishes, while a third of Millennials said social media recommendations and foodie interests drove their choice.
Catering to the older generation
Though over 65’s were less concerned with price, the report found that the age group were comparatively less well off - with a third having an income of less than £20,000.
Eimear Owens, country sales manager UK & Ireland at Santa Maria Foodservice, said operators would need to adapt to cater to an ageing population or risk losing them to the pub sector.
“Demographic changes will have a huge impact on the eating out market in the coming years. By 2025, 23 per cent of the world’s population will be over 65,” she said.
“Our report shows that one size definitely doesn’t fit all when it comes to menu and concept development. Operators will have to be more flexible and, depending on their brand profile, will need to understand how to exploit the growth in ‘seniors’ who prefer familiar foods they know and love and capitalise on younger diners who see eating out as the new going out.”
BigHospitality has previously reported that the sector loses up to £16bn in revenue a year by failing to cater to the needs of the over-65’s.