U.S. Seniors Go Out To Eat More Than Millennials

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on January 29, 2014.

Traffic at "quick-service restaurants" such as McDonald's is on the rise. Of 2013 restaurant visits, quick-service places accounted for 78 percent. Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Traffic at “quick-service restaurants” such as McDonald’s is on the rise. Of 2013 restaurant visits, quick-service places accounted for 78 percent. Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

American seniors are now more likely to eat in restaurants than their younger and middle-age counterparts. That’s one of the unexpected findings of a new report about U.S. eating habits.

The data also shows Millennials are setting new diet trends, but not everything about our diets is changing. Poultry and potatoes are still two of the most common dinner foods in the United States, and they’re most likely prepared and eaten at home.

This data was compiled in a report in the trade magazine Food Technology, produced by a professional group in Chicago called the Institute of Food Technologists. The report showed restaurant traffic was slightly up overall in 2013, almost exclusively due to seniors, but down for those in the 18-47 age group. Formerly restaurants’ biggest demographic, 18- to 47-year-olds ate out 211 times each in 2012, down from 240 times in 2008.

Millennials are more likely to adopt special diets, like gluten-free or vegan. For example, 45 percent have done so, compared with 24 percent of Baby Boomers, the report said.

All age groups still eat most of their meals at home, especially on weeknights, and more than half make their homemade dinners from scratch. Nearly half of all adult meals – 46 percent – were eaten alone in 2013, up from 44 percent in 2010.

These numbers provide a bite-size picture of more American eating trends.

72.9%

The percentage of all American meals that were prepared and eaten in the home in 2013. It’s the same percentage as 2012, but it’s up from 69.8 percent five years ago.

78%

The percentage of all 2013 restaurant visits in the United States that were to “quick-service restaurants.” Those are places like McDonald’s, Subway, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Panera and Dairy Queen. Quick service traffic was up 1 percent over 2012.

69%

The percentage of Americans who said they had eaten poultry for dinner at least once in the past week, making it the most popular entree according to 2012 data. Pizza was next at 44 percent, followed by soup at 37 percent.

78%

The percentage of Americans who said they’d eaten potatoes as a dinner side dish in the past week. Fifty-seven percent said they’d had a green salad. Bananas topped apples and strawberries as the most purchased fruit.