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Gen X and the art of the dining deal

Gen X is a generation of planners. On the younger end of the 42-to-52 age range, many Gen Xers are making plans to save for their kids’ college. On the older end, retirement. Either way, when it comes to money, they’re counting their pennies.

But it’s not just planning that has this generation minding its money. A recent Forbes survey gives Gen X an average financial wellness score of 4.8 on a 0-10 scale. It counts retirement planning, getting out of debt and managing cash flow as the top three priorities of this age group in terms of money management. And it lists its vulnerabilities as not having enough saved for retirement, a lack of emergency savings and living beyond their means.

This uncertainty around money has affected how Gen X chooses where they eat. Low prices continue to drive preference. And as a larger percentage of this group struggles to make ends meet, discounts begin to matter more.

Growth of fast food

As with all generational breakouts, younger Gen Xers don’t generally see eye-to-eye with older ones when it comes to dining preferences. But both groups overwhelmingly choose fast food over other restaurant segments, with 85% of the total demographic visiting fast-food restaurants on a monthly basis, according to the Generational Consumer Trend Report.

But younger Gen Xers are more likely to choose a full-service restaurant, particularly one that appeals to families with younger kids, with 51% of younger Gen Xers (ages 42-47) visiting a traditional full-service establishment at least once a month compared to older Gen Xers at 43%.

Among the cuisines they choose at these restaurants, Gen Xers prefer burgers, chicken, tacos or burritos, hot coffee, bottled water, smoothies and sports drinks more than any of the other generations. Ever the evolving group, those preferences don’t stop there.

Global flavor seekers

Most of Generation X has a more adventurous palate. Overall, 62% of Gen X likes to try new flavors from time to time, with younger Gen Xers edging out the older crowd by 3 percentage points when it comes to trying new things, with 63% saying they like new flavors occasionally. And 27% of older Gen Xers prefer sticking with their favorite flavors, rarely trying new ones.

These flavor preferences could explain why younger Gen Xers enjoy less mainstream global cuisines such as Japanese, sushi and Caribbean food, according to Technomic. Older Gen Xers, on the other hand, prefer a limited-service restaurant that offers a more traditional menu.

On health and kits

Living a healthy lifestyle is likewise important to Generation X, with many choosing home cooking as a way to save money and eat healthier at the same time. Meal kit usage is more prevalent in Gen X than in the millennial and baby boomer generations, particularly because it saves them a trip to the store and allows them to make healthier choices. Generally speaking, 49% of Gen Xers are cooking at home more often, compared to 42% of Gen Z and 46% of millennials.

Photograph: Shutterstock

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