Millennials and Gen Z Are Visiting Casual Dining Restaurants Less, But Can These Chains Win Them Back? 

As some casual dining chains are failing to connect with the younger generations, a demographic looking for healthier and more convenient options– we are seeing more big chains close stores.

IHOP is closing 30 to 40 stores and Applebee’s is closing between 60 to 80 stores just this year.

Other chains are making major investments to revamp their image, food product and operations to win back these younger generations.

How so?

“Day in and day out, legacy brands cook up new plans to court younger guests. Olive Garden recently launched an Insta-worthy Meatball Pizza Bowl, followed by Red Lobster’s lobster and waffle combo; TGI Fridays became the first national chain to put the meatless Beyond Meat burger on its menu; and IHOP and others are perfecting mobile apps, optimizing for delivery and takeout,” writes “Adweek.”

Although IHOP is closing stores, the restaurant brand has aggressive plans to adapt to the needs of today’s consumer. IHOP is leveraging technology, but did not rush into on-demand delivery for good reason. 

“We wanted to make sure we could deliver the food in a way we knew our guests would want it. We spent a lot of time working on our packaging,” said Brad Haley, IHOP’s marketing chief to “Adweek.” “That was one of those offline things we needed to do to make sure the technology would work as well as it possibly could.” 

TGI Fridays is taking a different approach by leveraging both technology and its bar program. 

In Texas, the chain is testing a AI-driven virtual bartender program. Like a game, the guests answer some questions about their current beverage preferences and a virtual bartender concocts a personalized cocktail for them. A real bartender at the TGI Fridays store then makes the drink.   

“The buzz quality of that process is pretty high,” said Sherid Mityas, vice president of strategy and brand initiatives at TGI Fridays to “Adweek.” “To us, the differentiating point is taking technology and making it useful even when our guests are inside the four walls as well.”

Learn more about how struggling casual dining chains are adapting to appeal to millennials at “Adweek.”