Dine-in, Takeout or Delivery? It Depends Which Generation You Ask…

Consumers make food-related decisions several times a day. But if the decision involves a restaurant, they must also decide whether to dine in or eat elsewhere—a decision that can prompt different answers depending on the person’s age.

Dine-in Service

Nearly half (48 percent) of all of the food consumers order at restaurants is eaten on site. But consumers’ preferences for dine-in, takeout and delivery orders differ by generation. Data shows that as consumers age, a larger percentage of the meals they source from restaurants is ordered for onsite dining.

These restaurant visits account for the largest proportion of orders placed by Baby Boomers—more than half (52 percent) of Boomers’ restaurant occasions include dine-in service. In comparison, fewer than half of all restaurant orders placed by Millennials (44 percent) and Gen Xers (46 percent) are for dine-in.

Base: 1,500 consumers aged 20–66
Total percentages do not equal 100% due to rounding
Source: Technomic Generational Consumer Trend Report

Takeout and Delivery

Consumers are twice as likely to order food for takeout (38 percent) as for delivery (15 percent). This is partly because takeout service is more readily available than delivery. But generational preferences are also apparent in these service options. Takeout orders are most common among Gen Xers, with these consumers saying that two-fifths (41 percent) of their dining-occasions are for takeout.

On the other hand, delivery orders are most popular among Millennials. One-fifth of Millennial (20 percent) restaurant orders are for delivery, compared to 13 percent of Generation X’s and just 12 percent of Baby Boomers’ foodservice visits.

Different Motivations

The need for convenience is likely driving takeout and delivery orders by Gen X and Millennial consumers. More than a fifth of all consumers cite a lack of time to cook (23 percent) and overwhelming daily responsibilities (22 percent) for their reliance on foodservice.

Base: 708 (would like) and 720 (daily responsibility) consumers aged 20–66
Consumers indicated their opinion on a scale of 1–6 where 6 = agree completely and 1 = disagree completely
Source: Technomic Generational Consumer Trend Report

From a diner’s perspective, takeout and delivery orders take less time than dine-in occasions and allow consumers to focus on other tasks while their food is being prepared. Compared to Baby Boomers, significantly more Millennials and Gen Xers either agree or agree completely that they rely on foodservice due to a lack of time and overwhelming daily responsibilities.

That said, while both Millennials and Generation Xers seek convenient to-go options, their preferences vary due to different needstates. Millennials, especially younger Millennials aged 20­–27, are the least likely of the three generations to be married with kids and have familial obligations. These consumers are often on the go and may prefer to have food delivered to them once they reach their destination.

On the other hand, Gen Xers (consumers aged 36–46) are more likely to be married and have children, and may prefer takeout for family meal occasions. Gen Xers, especially working Gen X parents, may consider takeout to be a convenient family-meal solution since they can pick up food for dinner on their way home from work.

Generational Differences

Market segmentation is a key concept of market research, and perhaps no segmentation is more important than generational grouping. Technomic’s 2012 Generational Consumer Trend Report provides an in-depth analysis of Millennials, Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, and their impact on and importance to the foodservice industry.


Anne Mills

Anne Mills is a Consumer Research Manager at Technomic Inc. She works on the firm’s Consumer Trend Reports, a series of more than 25 annual studies that keep U.S., Canadian and U.K. foodservice professionals up to date on the evolving menu and consumer trends in key foodservice areas including: food and beverage categories, restaurant sectors, dining occasions, consumer segments and more.

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