A drop in 25-34-year-olds eating out could mean a potential loss in annual spend of up to £800m.
Global information company the NPD Group is predicting a decrease in eat-out or out-of-home (OOH) visits by millennial consumers between now and 2022 in its new report, The Future of Foodservice: Great Britain 2022.
The report says OOH visits in Britain's foodservice industry among this age group will decrease from 20% to around 18% of the industry total of 11.5 billion visits, equivalent to 155 million fewer visits annually.
However, research suggests operators can compensate by targeting the over 50s, a fast-growing demographic which will account for more than 70% of the growth in the country's population between now and 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Over 50s also tend to be wealthier, more active and more experimental when eating out than previous generations. Total OOH visits among people aged 50+ could increase by more than 4% by 2022 (130 million visits), three times faster than the total OOH market.
Cyril Lavenant, foodservice director UK at the NPD Group, said: "The 25-34s are facing higher living costs than ever, especially in housing and childcare, and this is prompting them to cut back on foodservice purchases. Operators and suppliers will have to work hard to determine what could bring the 25-to-34s back to the market. But now is also the right time to think more about the needs of the over 50s."
Over 50s are already the biggest spenders when it comes to eating out. The average bill for the 50-64 age group at a full-service restaurant is £13.41, higher than any of the other age bands. The over 65s have the second highest average spend at £13.10.
Older customers will sustain weekend business. The NPD Group says the over 50s will drive more than half of an expected 14% increase in weekend foodservice traffic by 2022, and eventually account for 29% of weekend visits.
The over 50s also currently account for 14% of all delivery visits, expected to increase 3% by 2022 to 17%. While the over 50s currently only account for 8% of delivery via apps, the NPD Group believes this will increase rapidly as older consumers become more app savvy. The group says the industry can expand home delivery for the over 50s, especially if operators innovate with lighter food options, more low-GI foods, and by doing more to assist consumers who are diabetic or watching their cholesterol.