CHICAGO — In addition to a challenging economy, restaurant operators also are dealing with shifting customer demographics as parents decide to leave the kids at home, and young adults, ages 18 to 24, cut back on restaurant visits, according to market research company The NPD Group.
 
NPD's CREST, which has tracked consumer purchasing and consumption patterns at commercial restaurants since 1975, shows that in 2008, restaurant visits by parties with kids declined by three percent, and restaurant visits by young adults dropped from 254 per capita in 2007 to 233 in 2008.
 
According to the NPD report, Holding Onto "Generation Next"… The Coveted 18-24 Year-Old, young adults' preferences have shifted as health and food quality is top-of-mind with them. The study finds they feel restaurant food is often too high in calories, and there aren't enough healthy/nutritious options. They also reference poor food quality, not freshly prepared, and no fresh ingredients when evaluating restaurant food.
 
"Considering the cost of adding kids' meals to a restaurant check, it's not surprising that adults are deciding to keep the kids at home, and I believe we'll see more kids in restaurants once the economy improves," says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. "It's a different situation with the 18-24 year olds, their restaurant preferences have been changing over the last few years, and it will be important for restaurant operators to understand these preferences in order to get them back in."
 
Meanwhile, baby boomers have increased their visits to restaurants over the past year, according to NPD's foodservice market research. In 2008, the number of per capita visits by adults, aged 50 to 64 was 209, up from 204 in 2007 and 201 in 2003.

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