Millennials Seek Restaurant-Like Home Dinners

The struggling economy has been tough on Millennials, who are cautious about how they spend their limited budgets. 

One result is that while Millennials made some 12 billion visits to restaurants in 2011, their share of foodservice traffic declined by six percentage points between 2008 and 2012 -- and their average annual restaurant visits declined by 49 between 2009 and 2013, according to The NPD Group's foodservice market research. 

But what's bad news for restaurants is good news for food marketers: Millennials source more than two-thirds of their dinner meals from home. 

Millennials' key motivators in choosing in-home dinner meals are "satisfying and tasty," "quick and convenient" and "economical," NPD's food and beverage research shows. In addition, food makers that respond to Millennials' longing for in-home dinners that look and taste like restaurant fare have a leg up with this generation.

Millennials aren't willing to spend more than 15 minutes preparing main dinner dishes; their clean-up time is about half of preparation and cooking time; and their preference is to heat meals in the oven or on the stovetop. 

Still, they generally consider their cooking to be as good as the average American's, and 57% rate themselves as "very good" cooks.

Although the primary dinner-choice drivers are largely shared among Millennials, there are differences in how those with and those without children approach dinner.

For example, childless Millennials are somewhat more spontaneous: They plan 35% percent of their in-home dinners within 30 minutes of eating. Those with children plan 48% of dinners the same day, but more than 30 minutes in advance.  

Millennials without families also use more recipes, from a variety of sources, than those with families.  

Bottom line: To grab Millennial market share, food marketers need to provide "excitement and new experiences," as well as taste, convenience and value, sums up NPD food and beverage industry analyst Darren Seifer.

"Young people eating" photo from Shutterstock.

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