Monday, May 27, 2013

Eating Out as a Primary Social Activity

This past January, researchers at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) conduced a scientific, generalizable survey to learn more about the 80 million Americans known as Gen Y/Millennials.

Between the ages of 18 and 35, they represent 25% of the U.S. population and a cohort that will shape entertainment, restaurants and shopping for many years to come.

Nearly 30,000 members strong, ULI was founded in 1936 and includes profound visionaries such as Edward T. McMahon who often writes about unique sense-of-place with books and articles such as The Distinctive City.

Released last week, the 30-page report of the survey’s results is well worth study. Developed for land use, it is a gold mine for marketers, especially those in community-destination marketing organizations.

Several things jumped out at me:

  • 38% live in the South, 24% in the West, 21% in the Midwest and 17% in the Northeast.


  • 39% see themselves as city people, 29% as suburbanites and 32% as small-town/country people.


  • But 14% actually live in or near downtowns, 34% in neighborhoods just outside downtown, 13% in dense, older suburbs, 11% in newer, outlying neighborhoods, 19% in small cities and towns and 10% in rural communities.


  • Those living downtown compared to the overall sample tend to be more male, younger (18-25,) much more likely to be Hispanic or black, shop more frequently, buy groceries daily and frequent green grocers and farmers markets for fresh food.


  • A testament to the importance of independent stores was that 66% shop at neighborhood districts such as Ninth Street in Durham, NC where I live, 55% at least monthly.

This included 60-69% of those living in rural areas and small towns, 63-67% of those living in neighborhoods around downtown or older suburbs, 60% of those in newer, outlying suburbs and nearly 80% of those living in downtowns.

  • Downtowns had less shopping potential across the board but still substantial.


  • 75% see at least 12 movies a year in a theater, including seven out of ten men and more than half of women.


  • Shopping and eating out have a connection with nearly half frequently combining them and only 6% saying they rarely do.  Gen Y/Millennials see both as entertainment.


  • More than half eat out with friends or a partner more than once a week, 11% daily.  At least once a week, nearly half meet for breakfast, 44% for lunch and 45% for dinner.  Six out of ten love to gather at restaurants.


  • Nearly 5 in 10 frequent independent local or neighborhood places, 27% casual chain restaurants with table service and 13% are on the lookout for hot, new restaurants.  Eating out is a primary social activity for this cohort.


  • Two-thirds overall including, 69% of men and 57% of women patronize music, dance and comedy clubs – 45% at least once a month.


  • Oh, and 29% of men use free time to read compared to 47% of women.  We definitely need to elect more women to high office in the future if we’re ever going to overcome the tendency of lawmakers not to read the bills upon which they vote.


  • Only two in five have a full-time job.  Forty percent have never had a student loan and 11% have repaid them.  Credit card debt is modest.  They lean more to debit cards.


  • 24% live with their parents but this drops to 15% after age 26 and 10% in their 30s.  Sixteen percent rely on parents to pay for travel and vacations, the lowest area of reliance.

The report is loaded with helpful perspective, these are just the ones that drew my interest or offered insights of which I was not aware or gave me broader perspective on my own behavior as a “boomer.”

Kudos to ULI for another informative analysis.

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