Millennials to Restaurants: No Thanks

New trend troubles business owners, but there are measurable health benefits for young people choosing to eat at home.

Millennials are eating out less and laughing straight to the bank. (Photo: Don Klumpp/Getty Images)

Jason Best has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Does it suck to be young today? Businesses of all stripes have long coveted the 18-to-34-year-old demographic because, let’s face it, money tends to flow through their freewheeling wallets like water through a sieve.

But all that seems to be changing. A new report by NPD Group, a market research firm, finds that so-called Millennials are breaking new ground by being the first generation to stay away from restaurants, according to USA Today.

"This is a shift of biblical proportions for the restaurant industry," Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, tells the newspaper. "I've done this for 35 years, and we could always count on this age group as the biggest restaurant users. But not the last five years."

Indeed, today’s 18-to-34 demographic is eating out approximately one time less per week than they did in 2007. Turns out their older brothers and sisters (ages 35-49) are eating out more, and so are their parents (age 50+).

What gives? As USA Today points out, the recession has been brutal for young adults, whose unemployment rate is nearly three percent higher than the national average. Couple that with student loan debt, and even Applebee’s seems like an over-the-top splurge when you’re back bunking in your childhood bedroom.

Now, this may seem like cold comfort compared to a hot plate of cheesy fries (especially if you’ve just spent your day channel-surfing P90X infomercials and Judge Judy), but hey, Millennials, it may actually be better for you that you’re eating out less.

A new study has confirmed what most everyone probably has already guessed: Eating out generally means eating more (including lots more fat and sugar). The study, which was published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, actually focused on kids and teens but found that, on average, adolescents who ate at fast-food restaurants on any given day consumed an extra 310 calories while they took in 267 more calories when they visited a full-service, sit-down restaurant.

“There’s been an assumption that fast-food meals are bad…where full-service restaurants tend to get a pass,” one researcher who was not involved in the study tells Reuters. “Full-service restaurant meals are high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium as well, and that should be a focus of people’s interest, not just fast food.”

So while you’re fiddling with your resume, you might just take up running (cheap), stop eating out, use your free time to write a book (The Unemployment Diet) and become famous. Sounds like a plan.

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