Industry News | March 11, 2009

Economy Hits New Low: Millennials

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Bernie Madoff. Fine. John Thain. OK. But the sacred allowance? So not cool.

The economic crisis has claimed plenty of victims, but the most recent is especially bad for quick-serves. Millennials, young people ages 12 to 29 and the heartbeat of the quick-service consumer base, are beginning to feel the pinch and cut back their spending.

A recent survey by youth-research firm TRU found two-thirds of Millennials are “somewhat” or “very concerned” about their personal finances.

“It’s trickled down to them,” says Blair Fischer, senior trends manager for TRU. “If you’re a teen and your parents are affected by the economy, you’re reliant on your parents for money and well being.”

Even worse for the industry: Two of the four top categories young peopel plan to spend less on are food-related. Fifty-five percent plan to spend less on eating out, while 51 percent plan to spend less on snacks. The two remaining cut-back categories are electronics and entertainment.

Despite the grim numbers, Fischer believes the economy’s impact will be limited.

“I wouldn’t expect people are going to stop going to fast-food restaurants,” he says. “They will curtail it to a degree, but teens and twenty-somethings are already going to fast-food restaurants quite a lot. You’re going to see minimizing across the board.”

The study did find, however, that as the economic crisis plays out, Millennials are leading more “cocooned” lifestyles: Seven out of 10 teens and twenty-somethings expect to eat more home-cooked meals; two-thirds plan to eat less fast food; and more than half (53 percent) say they will stay home more.

“As far as twenty-somethings go, they’re coming out of college and can’t get a job and are living at home,” Fischer says. “You’re not going to be spending discretionary income, even if you have any, on going out to eat.”

While tweens, teens, and young adults might not be able to avoid the recession, Fischer says Millennials are a resilient group and will return to their normal spending once the economy recovers.

“They are the future so they’re going to have to find a way to bounce back,” he says.

--Blair Chancey

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