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Targeting boomers and seniors to drive restaurant traffic
By Emma Hyatt
July 23, 2013




Targeting baby boomers and seniors to drive restaurant traffic
Older Canadians have been gaining share of restaurant visits and are predicted to continue this trend.

Take a moment to reflect on some recent restaurant advertisements and the types of actors cast in them. Very likely you’re imagining teenagers, working adults, and families with children. Younger consumers are the heaviest restaurant users and are at life stages where they are forming their brand loyalties, motivating restaurants to focus their marketing dollars on them. However, the aging population has been attracting more attention from the foodservice industry and rightly so. While they are a smaller target market, boomers and seniors have been and will continue to be a strategic source of growth.

For the past six years, boomers and seniors have been slowly but surely gaining share of restaurant traffic, and The NPD Group forecasts ages 55 and up to continue to gain over the next three years. This growth is driven both by older boomers (aged 55-64) and seniors (aged 65 and up) eating out more often, and by younger boomers (aged 45-54) bringing their more frequent use of foodservice with them as they age. While boomers are the largest generational group driving this trend, seniors are making the most notable share gains and should not be over looked. Together, boomers and seniors make up 38 per cent of restaurant visits.


Boomers’ and seniors’ restaurant habits are more similar to the average customer than they are different; however, there are some key differences that can give your business an edge with this growing target market.

Customers over the age of 45 are more likely to choose their restaurant based on habit and brand loyalty. Strong brand loyalty makes attracting their business from competitors more difficult, but keeping it more lucrative in terms of their repeat business. When choosing their restaurant destination, these customers skew towards smaller, independent operators and enjoy full-service, on-premise visits more often. As such, it is important to get personal with boomers and seniors and make them feel welcome as they sit down at a familiar table.

Boomers’ and seniors’ are also more likely to be driven by food quality, menu variety, and light meals. Seniors are also more concerned with getting a good price. Prioritization of quality and variety means older customers are willing to pay more for what will satisfy them, so focus promotions not just on price but on quality-driven value. Appeal to the price-conscious customer with smaller portions and tasting menus for premium items, by getting creative with less-expensive ingredients, or with higher-cheque items at quick-service restaurants.

When guiding menu innovation, consider that boomers and seniors visit earlier in the day, are less likely to eat out for afternoon or evening snacks, and are more concerned about quality and health. Like any Canadian, they order mostly coffee, soft drinks, fries, burgers, and chicken, but the following menu items are those that are particularly popular with boomers and seniors:
  • Traditional plated breakfasts like bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, and waffles
  • Brewed coffee and tea, diet soft drinks, alcohol, and tap water
  • Desserts and baked goods like donuts, muffins, and bagels, which are often ordered with coffee
  • Seafood entrées and Chinese dishes
  • Deli meat sandwiches and seafood sandwiches
  • Salads and vegetable side dishes

These are all popular menu items that are ordered by a variety of customers, but are chosen more often by ages over 45. To make them stand out and grab the eye of this target market, reduce fat, sugar, and salt in ways that don’t compromise flavour. Starting with quality ingredients and flavouring with herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables is a great place to start.

forecasted age distribution of restaurant traffic
Source: The NPD Group, A Look into the Future of Foodservice, 2011, Forecasting Canadian restaurant traffic into 2016.

See also:

About the author

Emma Hyatt is Account Specialist, Foodservice Canada for the NPD Group. The NPD Group has more than 25 years of experience providing reliable and comprehensive consumer-based market information to leaders in the foodservice industry. For more information, visit or contact Hyatt at

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