Eating out beats eating in

Americans recently reached a milestone in terms of how they eat. NC State University economist Mike Walden explains.

“This is the milestone: For the first time ever this year, Americans are spending more on food and drinks at restaurants than what they spend at grocery stores and super markets for eating at home. And this is just an amazing change because as recently as the 1990s we spent 80 percent more on food at home than we did food out. So obviously much has changed in the last quarter century.

“I think a big driver of this has, of course, been the movement toward households where … both spouses work; obviously they have more time constraints. Eating out presents an option, a better option, in many cases, than eating in.

“But analysts say a big factor recently has been millennials. Millennials, of course, are those born between 1980 and 2000. They are about to overtake the baby boomers as the largest generation, and what many of them say is they view eating out as a social event, and so they prefer that because they can get together with their friends at restaurants. They do, however, go to less expensive restaurants. So it’s going to be very interesting to see if this trend continues.”