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    MARKET EDGES

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Many restaurant operators expend considerable energy to satisfy the needs of the young adult market, and rightly so. Teenagers and young adults, 18-24 years of age, are the life blood of the QSR industry. Most restaurant operators find young adults a critical segment of the population because they are among the heaviest users of restaurants.

Recent date published by NPD shows this group has been scaling back on their restaurant use over the past few years, with the decline from 2007 to 2008 being quite striking. In 2005, consumers 18-24 years of age visited restaurants, on average, 265 times per year. In 2008, that number dropped to 240. From the peak this is a significant shift in restaurant trends. While restaurant use overall has slipped a bit, no other age group has scaled back to the extent young adults have.

While they are a relatively small group in terms of population, 18-24 year olds are responsible for a sizeable number of industry visits. For the year ending June ’08, young adults 18-24 accounted for nearly seven billion visits to commercial restaurants and spent $42 billion dollars, according to CREST. The vast majority of their spending is at Quick Service Restaurants, while full service restaurants receive a fair amount of their spending too.

Offsetting the decline in per capita usage has been growth in the number of 18-24 year old population. Growth in the 18-24 year olds peaks in 2008 and 2009 at 1.2% and by 2013 the numbers begin to decline. Over the next few years, as growth in this critical demographic slows, restaurant operators will be looking for market share gains from a smaller pie.