Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Why California Restaurants Can Rest Easy: The Enduring Appeal of Dining Out


The restaurant industry has been obsessing with the rise of the minimum wage in California.  Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® continues to insist that there are many more reasons the long-term outlook for the California restaurant sector is bright. So, here we go.  

In California, approximately 49.3% of households consist of married couples, while 13.5% are single-female households and 6.0% are single-male households. Additionally, 24.0% of households have only one person, and 7.3% fall into the category of other non-family households.  Household size is a huge determining factor in determining ‘frequency of dinning out’ according to Johnson.  

Let’s focus on Millennials most coveted consumer today.  Like any other generation, they exhibit a diverse range of behaviors and preferences. While it’s essential to avoid generalizations, I can highlight some factors that might contribute to the perception that Millennials cook less from scratch at home:

1.       Lifestyle and Time Constraints:

o    Many Millennials lead busy lives, juggling work, social commitments, and personal interests. As a result, they may prioritize convenience over cooking elaborate meals.

o    Long working hours, commutes, and other responsibilities can limit the time available for cooking.

o    The rise of the gig economy and freelance work may lead to irregular schedules, making it challenging to plan and prepare meals consistently.

2.       Convenience Culture:

o    Millennials grew up during the digital age, where convenience is highly valued. They are accustomed to on-demand services, fast food, and meal delivery apps.

o    Pre-packaged meals, takeout, and restaurant dining offer convenience and save time compared to cooking from scratch.

3.       Skill and Confidence Gap:

o    Cooking from scratch requires culinary skills, knowledge of ingredients, and confidence in the kitchen. Not everyone has learned these skills.

o    Some Millennials may lack exposure to home cooking due to busy parents, reliance on processed foods, or limited cooking education.

4.       Cost Considerations:

o    While cooking from scratch can be cost-effective, initial investments (such as kitchen equipment, spices, and pantry staples) might deter Millennials.

o    The perception that eating out is more affordable than buying quality ingredients for home-cooked meals can influence behavior.

5.       Social Trends and Social Media:

o    Social media platforms often showcase visually appealing restaurant dishes and food trends. Millennials may prioritize experiencing these trends over cooking at home.

o    The desire to share food experiences online can drive restaurant visits.

6.       Changing Food Culture:

o    Millennials are part of a generation that witnessed significant shifts in food culture. They value diversity, global flavors, and experimentation.

o    Exploring diverse cuisines through dining out or ordering takeout aligns with this cultural openness.

7.       Environmental Concerns:

o    Some Millennials are environmentally conscious and seek sustainable food choices. However, they may perceive cooking at home as less eco-friendly due to packaging waste and energy consumption.

8.       Health and Nutrition Awareness:

o    Millennials are increasingly health-conscious. While some prioritize nutritious home-cooked meals, others may rely on pre-made options without considering their nutritional value.

Remember that individual preferences and circumstances vary widely. Many Millennials do cook from scratch, emphasizing health, creativity, and community. Encouraging cooking education, promoting accessible recipes, and emphasizing the benefits of home-cooked meals can help bridge any gaps.


While takeout and delivery are undeniably popular, California restaurants can take comfort in the fact that consumers, especially millennials, will likely continue to dine out frequently. Here's why:

1. California's Culinary Cachet:

·         California is a melting pot of cultures, reflected in its diverse and innovative restaurant scene. From Michelin-starred establishments to trendy food trucks, there's something for everyone's palate and budget.

·         Californians, known for their health-conscious lifestyles, appreciate the focus on fresh, local ingredients prevalent in many California restaurants.

·         Statistic: According to a California Restaurant Association: https://www.calrest.org/ report, California has over 800,000 restaurant employees, showcasing the industry's significant contribution to the state's economy.

2. The Social Aspect of Dining Out:

·         Restaurants offer an escape from the monotony of home cooking and provide a space for socializing, celebrating, and connecting with friends and family. Deliveries can't replicate the experience of a shared meal and lively conversation.

·         California's vibrant restaurant culture fosters a sense of community, with people gathering around food and conversation.

3. The Evolving Restaurant Experience:

·         Restaurants are constantly adapting to consumer preferences. Many offer online ordering and delivery alongside dine-in options, providing flexibility for customers.

·         Technology like self-ordering kiosks can streamline the dining experience, catering to millennials' comfort with digital tools.

4. The Value Proposition:

·         While grocery shopping can be expensive, restaurants offer a complete dining experience with prepared food, service, and ambiance.

·         Many California restaurants cater to budget-conscious millennials with lunch specials and happy hours.

The Takeaway:

California's unique restaurant scene, combined with the social and cultural aspects of dining out, ensures a continued demand for restaurants despite the rise of delivery services. Consumers will likely continue to embrace the convenience of takeout while cherishing the experience of dining out in California's diverse and exciting restaurants.

Looking for success clues of your own? Foodservice Solutions® specializes in outsourced food marketing and business development ideations. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities, technology, or a new menu product segment.  Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche visit us on our social media sites by clicking one of the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter


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