Time-starved Boomers Opt for Restaurants

A shortage of time to prepare meals at home is fueling the latest growth in restaurant patronage by Baby Boomers. This is good news for restaurateurs, as the Boomers have a higher level of disposable income than other age groups. Additionally, this group also spends more money while dining out than other groups, so the restaurants must be facing a bright future, right? Not so fast.

Those time-crunched, well-to-do Baby Boomers also have strong opinions about what they want in a dining experience and, of particular note to restaurateurs, are not afraid to change their dining options or to voice their opinions to the dining establishment. A study by PlanetFeedBack.com found that this group is most at-risk to change "brands" or try other fare. In fact, the study notes up to 25% of Boomers (more than any other age group) are liable to switch loyalty to other restaurants based on their experiences. In comparison, only 19% of those aged 19-24 are at risk of switching restaurant loyalty.

Furthermore, the PlanetFeedBack study found that the Boomers spend significantly more per restaurant visit than their younger counterparts. Boomers tally about $56 per restaurant visit, while the bill for 19-24-year-olds averages around $41.

Certainly, the convenience factor has resulted in more and more Boomers dining in restaurants, and these establishments are realizing the need for a wide range of menu items. In fact, menu choices, management and cleanliness are among the restaurant issues most discussed by consumers.

GMOs Unavoidable?

A recent study by BIGresearch found most U.S. consumers are undecided about eating genetically modified foods. Asked two questions about genetically modified foods (whether they would eat such foods and whether those foods were safe to eat), most of the 5,638 consumers interviewed were undecided, presenting what some view as an opportunity to educate the public.

"The large percentage of undecided individuals represents an opportunity for providing information to the general public on issues associated with genetically modified foods. Shortly, The Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences will initiate a research effort to evaluate the information desired and needed by the public--on genetically modified plants and animals and on other social issues, such as water quality, foreign ownership of farms and irradiated foods," said William Flinn, Ph.D., president emeritus of MUCIA (a consortium of the Big 10 Universities) and a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

David Barboza's recent article in the New York Times may indicate, however, that consumer education is a moot point. Barboza observed that genetically modified crops have spread so rapidly that it has become almost impossible for consumers to avoid them. Furthermore, the crops are "even turning up where people least expect them: in countries where they are banned but a black market has developed; in food supplies where they are forbidden or shunned, like organic products; even in fields that farmers believe are completely free of genetically modified crops," wrote Barboza.