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Old 06-03-17, 02:45 PM   #1
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Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

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Casual dining is in danger — and millennials are to blame.

Brands such as TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesday, and Applebee's have faced sales slumps and dozens of restaurant closures, as casual dining chains have struggled to attract customers and grow sales.

"Casual-dining restaurants face a uniquely challenging market today," Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith recently wrote in a letter to shareholders.

According to Smith, these sit-down restaurants' struggles can blamed on the most-frequently besmirched generation: millennials.

"Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants and eating quickly, in fast-casual or quick-serve restaurants," Smith wrote.

While blaming millennials has become a trend to the point of cliche in retail, Smith isn't wrong to zero in on younger customers' changing tastes as a major factor in casual dining's downfall.

"Now, there's many, many options that people are replacing chains with," Victor Fernandez, restaurant industry tracker TDn2K's executive director of insights, recently told Business Insider.

Many of these options involve cooking at home. Grocery chains are increasingly competing with restaurants, thanks to lower prices and perks such as pick-up and delivery, new technology, and trendy features like wine bars and to-go meals. Plus, meal delivery kits such as Blue Apron are focused on getting millennials on a subscription plan that will convince them to stay in and cook a certain number of days a week.

Convenience is also a factor, both when it comes to delivery and speed of service. And casual dining chains are still playing catch-up with regards to delivery.

"The only part of casual dining that’s growing right now is the off premise side," said Bonnie Riggs, foodservice industry analyst for NPD, recently told Nation's Restaurant News.

Cheesecake Factory announced earlier this year it is expanding delivery to half of its 194 US locations through DoorDash, a third party delivery service. T.G.I. Fridays, Chili's, and Maggiano's are all now on Grubhub, and Buffalo Wild Wings and Red Robin are testing the service. Outback Steakhouse is using both third-party services and building its own delivery service.

While delivery is clearly a compelling option to offer, it isn't a simple service for restaurants to add. Customers often spend less when ordering delivery, especially at casual dining chains that rely on alcohol orders to drive sales. In-house delivery means added complexities, paying drivers, and additional insurance costs. Using a third-party means losing control over the food's quality.

Then, there are the more convenient chains that have drawn millennial customers away from casual dining options.

The growth of fast-casual chains such as Chipotle and Panera have been especially harmful. These chains manage to bring both convenience and lower prices to millennial customers, who are less enthused about spending more money just for the "experience" of sitting in a booth at a casual dining joint.

The fast-casual industry grew by 550% from 1999 to 2014, The Washington Post reported. By 2020, the fast-casual market in the US is expected to reach $66.9 billion, according to the market-research company Technavio.

"They have more of a healthy perception, there's quicker service times," Wedbush analyst Colin Radke told Business Insider in March. "The healthiness and the speed of service — that's been taking market share from casual dining."

Specific trends aside, when Smith says that millennials tastes differ from what casual dining chains can offer, she's avoiding a more blunt statement: that casual dining brands just aren't cool any more.

"When you look at the alternatives out there in the marketplace today and who's creating buzz and creating excitement, it's gone away from chain casual dining," John Antioco, TGI Fridays CEO who is attempting to rebrand the chain as a gastropub, told Business Insider.
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I guess millennials get blamed for everything. The only thing I don't get is millennial humor, and their constant use of reaction gifs.
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Old 06-03-17, 03:11 PM   #2
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

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The only thing I don't get is millennial humor, and their constant use of reaction gifs.
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Old 06-03-17, 03:13 PM   #3
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

exactly
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Old 06-03-17, 03:15 PM   #4
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

I don't get it. Can't they still sit at a nice restaurant with their face in the phone until the food is brought out?
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Old 06-03-17, 03:17 PM   #5
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

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Old 06-03-17, 03:21 PM   #6
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

I'm not a Millennial. I'm a leading edge Gen Xer. And with the exception of Red Robin, I can't think of a casual chain I would visit if an alternative were available. To me places like Applebee's, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster are for rubes.
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Old 06-03-17, 03:28 PM   #7
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

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I don't get it. Can't they still sit at a nice restaurant with their face in the phone until the food is brought out?
Eh, it's just easier to say "stupid millenials!" than it is for these chains to admit that they're kinda terrible. I'm a few years too old to be called a millenial (although my 29 year old wife is still in that range!), and you won't see me willingly step foot inside a TGI Fridays, Applebee's, Olive Garden, Buffalo Wild Wings, O'Charley's, or Ruby Tuesday either. There are too many local options with significantly better food that don't really even come at a premium price-wise, or we'll eat at smaller chains with higher standards like Firebirds.

I still get fast food semi-frequently (mostly Chick-Fil-A, Arby's, and breakfast options at Burger King and Bojangle's), so it's not total snobbery on my part, but casual chain restaurants are kind of the worst of both worlds.

Edit! I should confess to having a weakness for Fuddrucker's burgers too. Oops!
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Old 06-03-17, 03:44 PM   #8
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

I think there are far worse choices than casual dining like mentioned in the article. Obviously there are better food choices too but I kind of agree that it is the typical millennial mentality of feeling superior for making my own food which is better and healthier plus I don't have to leave the house and the comfort of having my wifi and devices that I can't leave for an hour by having to go out to a restaurant. I technically fall in to the millennial crowd even though I don't consider myself of that generation really.
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Old 06-03-17, 03:59 PM   #9
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

Anecdotal, but I think the problem that some of these chains are having is that they are simply offering an increasingly inferior product and dining experience. Two of the worst-managed restaurants I have ever seen are BWWs and one of them appears to have never improved despite years of horrible reviews. Just checked Yelp and people are still dropping 1-2 star reviews of this place for the same crap that people have been complaining about for years. While I realize that the restaurant is probably a franchise, a well-run parent company corrects this kind of crap.

I swore off TGI Fridays years ago after several unpleasant visits in a row to multiple locations. I used to actually like the place.

The only reason to even visit a Ruby Tuesday is for the salad bar as they were about the last major chain to even have one. What did they do a couple of years ago? They substantially reduced the size/quality of the salad bar. Nope, don't eat there anymore.

Honestly, I have never understood the allure of Applebees or Chili's at all. People don't go to large, national chains for authenticity, but places like Applebees seem to take that heavily phony/manufactured dining experience vibe and kick it up a few extra notches. They are basically the Subway of full-service dining. TGI's was the same way but at least some of their food was actually good for awhile.
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Old 06-03-17, 04:07 PM   #10
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

I think one problem is that a lot of these restaurants try to crossover into too many food types rather than just being good at one thing and the quality suffers overall.
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Old 06-03-17, 04:23 PM   #11
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

I'm not sure in other areas but in my area none of then are struggling. This is despite the fact that dozens up on dozens of new restaurants have also opened. Frankly I don't know how so many of them are surviving let alone succeeding.
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Old 06-03-17, 04:25 PM   #12
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

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Honestly, I have never understood the allure of Applebees or Chili's at all. People don't go to large, national chains for authenticity, but places like Applebees seem to take that heavily phony/manufactured dining experience vibe and kick it up a few extra notches. They are basically the Subway of full-service dining. TGI's was the same way but at least some of their food was actually good for awhile.
I never liked Chili's, or any of those other tex/mex or whatever they are chains. Like you said, a phony, manufactured dining experience with a boring menu.

TGI Fridays DID have good food, great atmosphere, and the service was decent for the most part, even really good at times.

I agree with a lot of what the article attributes this too. It seems like everyone is getting busier and busier these days, and businesses/corporations are trying to get blood from a stone, while consumers want everything dirt cheep. You have college graduates having to work two jobs in their field AND commute long distance in order to put a roof over their head, so going out for a nice dining experience is extremely rare. Food trucks, uber take-out, all that stuff is the norm now. You do your grocery shopping and get a Sushi lunch/sandwich/taco lunch in the same place.

Last edited by brayzie; 06-03-17 at 05:39 PM.
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Old 06-03-17, 04:36 PM   #13
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

I like how they're blaming millennials as if they're doing something immoral.

I'm not a millennial (nor do I plan one on TV), but I don't blame them at all. The millennials I know can't afford these sit-down restaurants... it's pricey in Canada at least. They're worried about paying off their student loans and rent with their crappy low-paying job.

I have an OK paying job and am doing well financially, yet I probably go to a sit-down restaurant only once a year, order pizza delivery once every couple months and grab drive-thru once a month.... the rest of the time I cook at home.
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Old 06-03-17, 04:38 PM   #14
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

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Food trucks, uber take-out, all that stuff is the norm now. You do your grocery shopping and get a Sushi lunch/sandwich/taco lunch in the same place.
I would also add that there has been an attitudinal shift towards food/dining in this most recent generation, especially among those that are more urban and well-heeled (or those that foolishly spend like they are). While most of them are not "foodies", there is this kind of Whole Foods-esque shift in attitudes about ingredients/perception of "food quality" as well as this shift towards thinking of dining as more of a hobby/lifestyle element than before. Your typical Applebees is kind of the antithesis of all that.
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Old 06-03-17, 04:44 PM   #15
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

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I think one problem is that a lot of these restaurants try to crossover into too many food types rather than just being good at one thing and the quality suffers overall.
That's the problem. When the get too big, they die out.

I haven't been to any of the 'fast-casual' places in years. There has been a steady quality decline overall in them since the 1990s.

Those pesky Millenials aren't helping the issue with their cavalier attitudes, inability to sit still for 30 minutes for a meal, or their snobbery / effrontery either.

But, blaming them isn't the whole story. If these resturants thought a little more about using quality ingredients at reasonable cost rather than corporate greed, they might actually thrive again
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Old 06-03-17, 05:03 PM   #16
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

You want good food, go to a truck stop.
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Old 06-03-17, 05:11 PM   #17
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

I'm 48 and avoid chains whenever there is a reasonable non-chain alternative. It's not because I'm snooty, I'm just tired of all the usual fare. You can only eat at these places so often before you become tired of them.
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Old 06-03-17, 05:13 PM   #18
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

How does 'chain restaurant sales decline' turn into 'millennials are killing chain restaurants!' ?
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Old 06-03-17, 05:31 PM   #19
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

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The millennials I know can't afford these sit-down restaurants... it's pricey in Canada at least. They're worried about paying off their student loans and rent with their crappy low-paying job.
I think there is a sense of entitlement among some millennials, but then again a lot of them, college graduates included, are busting their asses to make to get a career and work hard. Tuition has kept going up, and yet the quality of education/college environment seems to be declining from what I've heard. The people running the college give themselves raises all the time, price of tuition goes up, yet that rarely translates to the professors/teachers. All those loans are killing them so their trying to find cheap alternatives to their mode of living.
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Old 06-03-17, 05:31 PM   #20
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

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I guess millennials get blamed for everything. The only thing I don't get is millennial humor, and their constant use of reaction gifs.

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Old 06-03-17, 05:36 PM   #21
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

Millennials don't eat solid foods. They only drink energy potions and exotic coffees.
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Old 06-03-17, 05:38 PM   #22
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

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That's the problem. When the get too big, they die out.

Those pesky Millenials aren't helping the issue with their cavalier attitudes, inability to sit still for 30 minutes for a meal, or their snobbery / effrontery either.
I've gone out and noticed that a lot of people going out to eat will be playing on their phones instead of talking. Many restaurants now have music playing in the background, with multiple big screens everywhere. Attention spans are decreasing, and people are expected to multi-task, even when relaxing.

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But, blaming them isn't the whole story. If these resturants thought a little more about using quality ingredients at reasonable cost rather than corporate greed, they might actually thrive again
There's greed to go around. Everyone is looking for a way to game the system or find a loophole that allows for them maximum profits. And people don't care as long as their paying as little as possible.

With places like Applebees and Chili's you're also paying for the atmosphere and experience. It's usually lively and fun. But if everyone is too broke and/or too busy to engage in that, those types of places are going to suffer.

What's the overhead for a food truck? How much more does it cost for the supermarket to have their deli department also playing sushi server?

We're getting to a point in society where the vast majority truly live to work.
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Old 06-03-17, 05:48 PM   #23
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

The effrontery! It's our obligation to keep Applebee's in business!

But I'm surprised ironic dining isn't helping such chains out a bit.
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Old 06-03-17, 06:18 PM   #24
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

I'm surprised lots of restaurants stay in business. Who goes to McDonald's when there's an In-n-Out or other competitor nearby? Save for Five Guys, which is oddly priced like fine dining. In-n-Out is actually cheaper than McDonalds - by a dollar or two.

Subway? No. Jersey Mike's. Or even Whole Foods has great sandwiches at reasonable prices. Taco Bell still gets me because of their very satisfying $1 menu.
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Old 06-03-17, 06:21 PM   #25
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Re: Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

Millennials are killing Applebees? They've finally found a way to make themselves useful!

...but they still need to get their asses off my lawn...I've got clouds to yell at, dammit!
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