1980s diners flock to full service

Nation’s Restaurant News commemorates its 50th anniversary this year with special retrospective features. Join the celebration on social media with the hashtag #NRN50Years.

When a consumer bought dinner out in 1980, it was likely a sit-down meal. A Gallup survey found that customers ages 50 or older went to a family-dining restaurant for 65 percent of dinner visits — and younger diners went to this segment for 46 percent of visits.

There was a bigger age divide on the quick-service front. Younger diners grabbed fast food for dinner almost three times as frequently as older customers.

Nation’s Restaurant News, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, reported on these segments in its Jan. 28, 1980, edition of the magazine.

The Gallup survey took place at a time when the industry was bracing for a difficult period.

“Changing lifestyles, particularly those sparked by inflation and energy shortages, should makes the 1980s a tough decade for the foodservice industry,” NRN wrote in 1980.

The National Restaurant Association predicted demographic shifts — higher incomes, an increased senior citizen population, smaller households, and more women in the workforce.

One NRA prediction turned into an ongoing trend four decades later: the rise of a more demanding and health-conscious diner.

Contact Jenna Telesca at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @jennatelesca

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