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National Restaurant Association - Study: Industry to serve older, more diverse customers in future

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Study: Industry to serve older, more diverse customers in future

With the U.S. population growing at a slower pace than it has in recent years, competition for an older, more diverse base of restaurant customers will intensify in the future, according to a new National Restaurant Association report.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the biggest population growth spurt by the year 2020 will be seen among senior citizens, ages 65 and older. Conversely, individuals under the age of 25 will represent a smaller proportion of the total population in 2020 than they did in 2010.

“Responding to consumer wants and needs has always been important to restaurant operators, and it will play an even larger role as the U.S. population shifts,” said Hudson Riehle, the NRA’s senior vice president of research, said.

“Catering to older diners will become increasingly important in years to come, so operators might consider making adjustments to menu design, lighting, furniture and other features to accommodate that demographic,” he added.

In addition to the increased growth of the senior segment, the population will continue to become more diverse in the future. For example, growth among non-white Hispanics is expected to remain steady, and Hispanics are expected to represent 19.1 percent of the total population in 2020, up from 16.4 percent in 2010. The non-Hispanic Asian population also is expected to increase, from 4.8 percent in 2010 to 5.5 percent in 2020.

As a result, the restaurant industry will be serving a more diverse customer base with an increased taste for ethnic cuisines and flavors.

“Catering to more diverse diners will become an important point of distinction in an intensely competitive environment. If guests’ expectations aren’t met, those guests can be quite quick to vote with their feet and choose a restaurant that better meet those expectations,” Riehle noted.

The “Restaurant Industry 2020: A Snapshot of the Future” report is available for download here.

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