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For Boomers, Loyalty Matters

Buying power and more time to eat out make them influential and essential.

It’s tempting to focus on the trendy, younger dining crowd, but don’t overlook the baby boomers. Consumers born during this era have major buying power and more time to eat out than other generations. This aging demographic favors more traditional flavors and protein dishes, but they also are at a stage in their lives where health concerns affect what they order. But order they will: according to Restaurant Hospitality magazine, boomers purchase an average of 193 restaurant meals a year, with an average check of $8.05 per customer. Those are numbers no operator can afford to ignore. 

Who Are the Boomers?

They are a very influential group—44% of the population with 70% of the disposable income—but they also have been influenced. The Cold War, assassinations, civil rights, political scandal, and space travel have been major factors in their lives.

  • They put a high priority on education. It has been a gateway to a better future for them more than any other generation.
  • Most are at or near retirement age, yet many are still healthy and active with no desire to simply fade into the sunset.
  • They tend to believe that age is not a barrier. They have worked all their lives and have lived during a very industrious period. 

Generational Differences in the Workplace, Horizon Health and How to Tweak Server Habits for the Baby Boomer Crowd, Restaurant Hospitality, 2014

Popular Flavors

Boomers are not terribly adventurous eaters. They favor traditional beef, pork, and seafood dishes, but they are willing to amp up the flavor with:

Menu Magic Words

Boomers demand value, so remind them they are getting the most for their money with these key callouts:

Favorite Foods

Like every generation, burgers and pizza top the list—69% of boomers would eat them at least every 90 days. But they like other foods, too, and here’s a list they would order regularly:

The Dining Experience

Although they have money to spend and time to spend it, boomers are not night owls. With this in mind, Restaurant Hospitality magazine suggests a marketing strategy that offers early evening specials to boomers. Then, later in the evening, dim the lights, turn up the volume, and invite a younger, more active crowd. Consider these other ideas to boost your boomer appeal:

  • Mindful snacking. Boomers like appetizers and small plates, but they are more inclined to order fresh, nutritionally balanced items.
  • Breakfast matters. Boomers spend more away-from-home dollars on breakfast than any other generation. If breakfast service fits your operation, make sure you’re marketing to the boomer crowd.
  • Bigger, more robust flavors. This generation is aging, and their taste and smell receptors are diminishing, which means they crave ramped-up flavor profiles.

The Generation Consumer Trend Report, Technomic Inc., 2014

Beyond Price and Value

It takes more than a good deal to satisfy boomers. They also enjoy friendly and attentive service, and they’re paying attention to health-related callouts:

State of the Industry, Technomic Inc., 2013