Restaurant Customer Demographics


As you choose targeted marketing strategies, keep the restaurant customer demographics of your area in mind. To find this important information, you can start at your local chamber of commerce or city hall. Sometimes, it is easiest to call the local government and ask if demographics for your city are available on the internet. The U.S. Census Bureau can be another good place to start. Whichever method you make sure you are receiving the most up-to-date information available.

Analyzing the Trading Area

Restaurant Customer Demographics Population by Age Pie Chart

When you analyze your area’s demographics, pay special attention to the following factors:

  • Age
  • Income levels
  • Education and job types
  • Marital status
  • Size of household
  • Housing and renting prices
  • Local businesses

Analyzing these factors will tell you a lot about the spending and eating habits of people who live in your trade area. For example, single young adults with middle to high income levels will typically eat out more often than those who are married with children.


One of the main purposes of demographics is to develop an idea of an area’s psychographics – the behavior, values, opinions, cultures, interests and lifestyles of a demographic group. To learn about psychographics, it may be worth going to a market research firm to find out about the purchasing habits of people who live in your trading area. A marketing firm collects data from credit cards, polls and censuses to analyze different segments of the population.

However, if the above option is too expensive, consider doing some field research to gather more information about your area’s restaurant customer demographics. Go to all the nearby markets, shops, bars, restaurants, cafés and clubs and try to mingle in order to learn about the people in your targeted segments. You can learn a lot about consumers’ product needs simply by being around them, watching and interacting.

Some general psychographic statistics on eating out include the following:

  • 18 to 24-year-olds eat out and drink alcohol outside the home more often than other age groups. 1
  • Generation Y – those born since 1978 – tend to eat more often at quick-service and pizza restaurants. 2
  • Generation X – those born between 1965 and 1977 – tend to prefer quick-service or casual establishments with comfort and a good perceived value. 3
  • Smaller households eat out more often than bigger households.
  • Empty nesters eat out more and spend more when they eat out. They typically spend 65% more on dining out than couples living with children. 4
  • Empty nesters are generally more concerned about the quality of food and the elegance of the atmosphere than the price. 5
  • People with a higher income tend to eat out more frequently.
  • People who work long hours eat out more than people who have enough free time to cook their own meals.
  • Working wives tend to prefer eating out more than housewives. 6
  • Traditionally, the older people get, the less frequently they eat out.7 However, this may change soon, since many baby boomers grew up eating out often.
  • Seniors tend to eat early. This group is attracted to value-priced options with smaller portions. 8
  • Wealthy, well-traveled consumers, particularly the wealthier baby boomers and the next generation, are more likely to look for ethnic or exotic food when they eat out. 9

Using Market Research Data

Market research can easily be free. Demographic and psychographic research does not necessarily require a marketing firm; all it requires is forward thinking and a willingness to learn and explore. Although your concept and location may be established and difficult to change, learning about your target customers will still help you choose the best promotional strategies. To choose the best marketing techniques, you need to understand target marketing.

After you know your target market, you can choose the right promotional tactics for the right customers. For example:

  • In a 2013 Gallup article about fast food dining habits, it was found that people between the ages of 18 and 29 ate fast food at least once per week. If this demographic matches your restaurant style, consider how you can target your marketing directly to them. Listen to their music and keep up with their technologies and fashions. This will help you determine the best way to promote yourself to them. You could also try social media marketing to reach them in the space where they grab most of their information.
  • If you choose to market to seniors, remember that they look for small, economical meals and like to eat early. The best marketing campaign will offer half portions and a good value. Also consider offering early-bird specials. Find out about places nearby where seniors may be living and post flyers or hand out coupons. Talk to seniors in your community and learn more about what they enjoy eating. In general, they may not be as interested in experimentation or ethnic food as young adult or baby boomer customers.

1 Roger Fields, Restaurant Success by the Numbers (Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press,  2007).
2 Jacquelyn Lynn, Start Your Own Restaurant and More (Entrepreneur Press, 2006).
3 Ibid.
4 Patti J. Shock, John T. Bowen and John M. Stefanelli, Restaurant Marketing for Owners and Managers (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, 2004).
5 Start Your Own Restaurant and More, op. cit.
6 Ralph W. Jackson, Stephen W. McDaniel and C.P. Rao, “Food Shopping and Preparation: Psychographic Differences of Working Wives and Housewives,” The Journal of Consumer Research 12, no. 1 (June 1985): 110-113.
7 “Restaurant Dining Still the Exception,” op. cit.
8 Ibid.
9 “Changing consumer demands create opportunities for U.S. food system,” op. cit.
10 “Restaurant Success By the Numbers,” op. cit.


About Author

Maggie Henderson

Maggie once gained five pounds in pursuit of the perfect Indian dal recipe. When she isn't cooking, she spends her days as a marketer and her nights and weekends blogging, taking pictures and chasing after her son and dog.

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