Even the unlimited breadsticks at Olive Garden and wooden rocking chairs at Cracker Barrel can’t seem to lure back the baby boomers.
It’s been over three years since many restaurants closed their doors and customers opted to eat more meals at home because of the Covid pandemic. Now, some older customers are still staying away, exacerbating a foot traffic problem faced by restaurant chains.
When it comes to customers over 65, “we just have not yet recovered the visits … to the extent we thought we would, really since the pandemic,” said Cracker Barrel CEO Sandra Cochran during a call with analysts earlier this month.
Older consumers have been hit by a double whammy, she said. At first, they stayed away because of health concerns. And then, they stayed away due to inflation.
“The over-65 group is particularly value-conscious,” she said. “And so we just haven’t seen the recovery of that group.”
The dip is coming at a time when Cracker Barrel’s traffic is down across the board.
“Our traffic declines were broad-based. They were against all of the age cohorts,” Cochran said, but pointed out that “the younger cohort held up better than the over 65.” Other chains, like Burger King, have also reported a dip in restaurant traffic as customers pull back due to higher prices.
Darden Restaurants (DRI), which owns Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen and others, noted during an analyst call Thursday that it, too, is seeing declining visits from older customers.