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Demographics for Restaurants

As you choose target marketing strategies, continue to look at demographics and psychographics. You can find demographic information online, at your local library, 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. Make sure you find the most up-to-date information available.

» U.S. Census Bureau

Analyzing the Trading Area

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.

Psychographics

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 it to go 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. You could also purchase this information from a credit card company.

However, if the above options are too expensive, consider doing field research. 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.4
  • 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.5
  • Empty nesters are generally more concerned about the quality of food and the elegance of the atmosphere than the price.6
  • People with more income tend to eat out more frequently.7
  • 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.8
  • Traditionally, the older people get, the less frequently they eat out.9 However, this may change soon, since many baby boomers grew up eating out often.
  • Seniors tend to eat early and slowly, and they look for good values with small portions.10
  • 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.11 

Using the Data

Market research is 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. » Learn More

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

  • People between the ages of 18 and 24 eat out more often than other age groups.12 If you choose to target 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 try text message marketing or promoting yourself through online social networks, like Facebook® or MySpace®.
    » Learn More

  • If you choose to target 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 to learn 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 David E. Davis, “Changing consumer demands create opportunities for U.S. food system,” Frozen Food Digest (Oct 2002) < http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb6641/is_/ai_n28952396>.
5 Patti J. Shock, John T. Bowen and John M. Stefanelli, Restaurant Marketing for Owners and Managers (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, 2004).
6 Start Your Own Restaurant and More, op. cit.
7 Lydia Saad, “Restaurant Dining Still the Exception” Gallup Polls, (December 27, 2005) <http://www.gallup.com/poll/20632/Restaurant-Dining-Still-Exception.aspx>.
8 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.
9 “Restaurant Dining Still the Exception,” op. cit.
10 Ibid.
11 “Changing consumer demands create opportunities for U.S. food system,” op. cit.
12 “Restaurant Success By the Numbers,” op. cit.