||Research Reveals What Influences Senior Diners
The increasingly important senior citizen restaurant customer prefers to be served and pay at the table, likes booth seating, and wants clean restaurants, university researchers found.
Despite a preference for table service versus self service and paying the server instead of a cashier, when those options are available, seniors identified quick-service restaurants as their most likely choice for breakfast and lunch, according to Richard F. Ghiselli, a Purdue University professor who was the study's lead researcher and author.
For dinner, the surveyed seniors were most likely to visit a full-service restaurant with an average check exceeding $10, noted Ghiselli, who heads Purdue's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
Ghiselli said the 2012 online survey of seniors yielded 203 respondents and that 50.2 percent of them were female and 49.8 percent of them were male. Of all respondents, 80.8 percent were ages 50 to 64, 17.2 percent were 65 to 79, and 2.0 percent were 80 or older.
"The importance of seniors -- the ranks of which the Boomers are joining at a rate of 8,000 a day -- to hospitality and tourism industries cannot be exaggerated," Ghiselli said, noting that by 2020 those aged 60 and older will represent 22.2 percent of the U.S. population, or twice the percentage it was in the 1940s.
"Not only are the number of seniors and Boomers noteworthy -- so is their wealth," he continued. Citing Federal Reserve information from 2009, the researcher added, that in 2007, the median net worth for those younger than 35 years old was $11,800, whereas the median net worth for those between 65 and 74 was $239,400.
As for how often they dine out, the 80-and-older respondents led all senior age groups by doing so an average of 8.75 times a month, followed by the 50- to 64-year-old consumers, at 8.31 times per month. The 65- to 79-year-olds ate in restaurants 8.12 times per month, the survey data showed.
Ghiselli said the respondents, as a group, more frequently dined away from home for lunch and dinner, eating out an average of 3.1 times per month at lunch and 3.2 times per month at dinner. On an annualized basis, that amounts to 37.2 and 38.4 visits to restaurants at lunch and dinner, respectively, which he pointed out "compare favorably" to the 32 lunches and 27 dinners per year at a restaurant for all Americans in 2009, according to NPD Group Crest research.
Though the seniors ate out for breakfast less frequently than they did for lunch or dinner, at 1.9 times per month, that frequency when annualized comes to 22.8 restaurant breakfast meals a year, which is about twice the average for all consumers in 2009, according to NPD Group Crest, Ghiselli said.
Some 38.9 percent of all respondents said they most preferred booth/bench seating, while 34 percent said they preferred chairs with arms. Ghiselli said swivel chairs attached to a table were the most preferred seating arrangement of just 1.5 percent of the senior respondents; just 6.9 percent said they most favored chairs on rollers.
More factors important to seniors
Ghiselli said the most frequently cited malady that might limit a respondent's restaurant use was vision related -- a problem cited by 17.2 percent of the survey takers, followed by dietary concerns at 13.8 percent, hearing impairment at 8.9 percent and the need for assistance when walking, 8.4 percent.
When it came to evaluating the importance of various factors related to dining out, survey participants were asked to read statements and score them from 1 to 5, with 1 meaning they strongly disagreed and 5 indicating they strongly agreed.
Cleanliness of kitchens in restaurants came in as the most important factor, with a mean score among all respondents of 4.61, followed by the cleanliness of dining areas and tables at 4.58, and the cleanliness of restrooms at 4.52. Ghiselli said that the next most important factors, as scored by respondents, were the taste and quality of the food, with a mean score of 4.51, followed by the quality of service at 4.43.
Rounding out the top 10 factors of greatest importance when dining out to all respondents was menu prices, with a mean score of 4.29; the air quality of a restaurant at 4.16; the atmosphere or environment at 4.03; the comfort level of the tables and chairs at 4.0; and the availability of a no-smoking section at 3.72.
Among other higher rated factors: accessibility within a restaurant, with a mean score of 3.64; accessibility outside and to the restaurant, 3.50; the availability of portion sizes that enable guests to order only the amount they want, 3.39; the availability of menu choices that permit guests to address their dietary concerns, 3.13; and the availability of handicapped parking spaces, 3.13.
Ghiselli said that except for the closeness of tables and to a lesser extent the volume of background music, the mean scores of answers to a number of survey questions "suggest that the respondents were not that concerned about the ambient environment in restaurants."
(Source: Nation's Restaurant News, 01/18/13)