I love trying out hot new restaurants. Sure, it's part of the "research" I do for my job as an editor at Restaurant Business, but it's also a very pleasurable and tasty experience. And when I discover a place I really like, I bring my friends back there with me—or at least tell them to try it. But like me, my friends are Baby Boomers—the generation born between 1946 and 1965. We don't eat old or feel old—until we go into one of these trendy new places where all the female patrons look like models and are wearing four-inch heels and short, tight dresses. Could they really be eating that lobster mac 'n cheese or giant veal shank that's on their table and still fit into those clothes?
But OK, I can ignore the eye candy and focus on the menu of handcrafted cocktails, tempting small plates and the chef's specials--if only the manager would give me a little TLC and the server would take our orders. I don't blame them for fawning over those cute Millennial diners; after all, they're the "foodie" generation and if you snag them now, they'll be your loyal customers for years to come. But the fact is that Baby Boomers are eating out in food- and wine-centric restaurants more often and spending more on meals right NOW.
According to Technomic, Boomers have more buying power than younger generations—an estimated $2.1 trillion. And an increasing amount of that disposable income is being spent in restaurants. Meanwhile, Millennials are pulling back on restaurant visits as Boomers have increased theirs. Bonnie Riggs of NPD, one of my most reliable sources, says "Boomers are supporting the industry…older consumers have tended to spend more per visit than younger diners, although younger people do eat out more."
So it's time the FOH staff at those trendy new restaurants started paying attention to us "mature" diners. Perhaps they can begin by lowering the volume of the music and installing better acoustics. Maybe it was all those rock concerts we attended in our younger days that impaired our hearing, but the noise level in some of these hotspots is painful. And who wants to shout a conversation across the table? Part of the pleasure of dining out is catching up with my friends without damaging my vocal chords along with my ears.
And by the way, we Tweet, Facebook, Instagram and pin photos to Pinterest with the best of them—and our peers, followers and friends click on our images and comments and listen to our restaurant recommendations. Keep on catering to those Millennials, but don't ignore us Boomers.
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