The restaurant industry is increasingly competitive — and tapping into the next generation is crucial for chains’ survival.
Failing to capture millennials’ interest has led to slumping sales and restaurant closures at sit-down chains such as Applebee’s.
However, according to Piper Jaffray’s biannual survey of teen preferences, some casual-dining chains may be staging a comeback. Despite millennials’ adoration of quick-service chains like McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Chipotle, some full-service brands are winning over their hearts — and wallets.
With 22% of upper-income teens’ spending dedicated to restaurants, the Gen Z or millennial diner is a valuable customer.
Here are the top five restaurants among teens, according to Piper Jaffray’s survey.
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5. Buffalo Wild Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings has had a difficult 2017.
In July, the chain had to swap a popular wings deal with a boneless wings promotion as chicken prices hit historic highs. In June, CEO Sally Smith announced she was leaving the company after an activist investor triumphed in a monthslong battle for the wings chain’s board.
More generally, the chain has struggled to grow sales as the casual-dining industry has entered a slump.
But, teen support for the chain could be crucial to turning things around. Teen customers spent an average of $ 18.14 at the chain — a higher check than any other brand in teens’ top five.
4. Olive Garden
Olive Garden is bucking the anti-casual-dining trend among millennials.
The chain has made headlines recently with promotions such as the never-ending pasta pass. In September, Olive Garden sold all 22,000 never-ending pasta passes mere seconds after they went on sale on the chain’s website.
“Millennials still want to come to restaurants,” Gene Lee, Darden Restaurants’ CEO, said in a call with investors in June. “I know you all don’t think millennials go to casual dining restaurants, but 30% of all our guests are millennials.”
Teens continue to love the fast-food behemoth.
The chain is also exploring delivery, which is available at more than 7,800 restaurants in 47 countries. While the fast-food chain only started offering delivery in the US through an UberEats partnership in January, the service is now available at more than 25% of US locations.