Why young people aren't eating in your restaurant

Posted by Luke Mitchell on 08 April 2014 in Fast food

New Voxburner research of 1,244 young people has revealed the eating out habits, attitudes and preferences of UK 16-24s.

In a survey conducted in March 2014 we explored the influences driving eating out decisions, discovered what makes a good eating out experience for young people and delved into their spending expectations.

Some of the things we found out:

  • Their favourite restaurants for fast food and casual dining;
  • The appeal of technology integration into the dining experience;
  • The restaurant brand values that matter most to them;
  • Interest in the street food trend;
  • The role of healthy eating in menu design;
  • Plus over 20 questions relating to eating out.

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In the US? For more insights like these below, make sure you check out Youth Marketing Strategy, coming to New York on 12 June 2014.


When considering eating out, above anything else the majority want to be able to access the full menu and prices of their proposed eatery online. That’s what 90% said, with the second priority – being able to see whether the restaurant has an available table – coming a long way behind on 48%.

When thinking about eating out at a restaurant, which of the following appeals to you? Tick all that apply.

Being able to view the full menu and prices online 90%

Being able to see if a restaurant has a free table via an app or website 48%

Booking a table via an app 47%

Ordering food via a digital platform or app 22%

Paying for meal using a digital platform or app 22%

A screen at your table 10%

Meanwhile there is a vast gap in priorities between those that matter a lot and those that are of minor importance. Good service, cleanliness and a convenient paying process are the most highly valued.

Which of the following important to you? Tick all that apply

Good customer service 94%

Cleanliness 85%

Being able to order and pay quickly 72%

If the restaurant looks popular 27%

A seat by the window 21%

Being able to ‘check in’ at a restaurant on social media 11%

We know from previous Voxburner research that this audience is price-driven and the brands they like tend to be value-centric. We also know that young people are sophisticated shoppers across the board, using price comparison websites, practicing ‘showrooming’ and embracing voucher and discount platforms to get the best deals. While the Vouchercloud era may have passed in the media’s eye, it’s clear promotions are still a key way to entice 16-24s.

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: discounts or 2-4-1 deals at restaurants are less important to me than they were 12 months ago

Strongly agree 4%

Agree 10%

Neither agree or disagree 24%

Disagree 38%

Strongly disagree 25%

How important are restaurant reviews on influence? Only a small number dismiss restaurant reviews altogether, but for most they are only important sometimes.

When it comes to writing their own reviews, young people are most active in social media. Facebook is the most likely place to mention a restaurant experience. A majority – 56% – say they are likely to post a photo of their meal online.

Over a quarter say they are active on review sites like TripAdvisor and TopTable.

How important are restaurant reviews when you are trying somewhere new?

Quite important, I sometimes look at reviews 66%

Very important, I will always look at reviews 21%

Not really important 13%

Following a restaurant experience, how likely are you to do each of the following?

Write a review on a website e.g Toptable, Tripadvisor

Very likely 8%

Somewhat likely 20%

Not very likely 39%

Not at all likely 34%

Write a review on your own website or blog

Very likely 6%

Somewhat likely 17%

Not very likely 28%

Not at all likely 49%

Add a mention on Facebook

Very likely 16%

Somewhat likely 42%

Not very likely 24%

Not at all likely 18%


Very likely 16%

Somewhat likely 31%

Not very likely 22%

Not at all likely 31%

Take a photo of your meal and post it on social media

Very likely 21%

Somewhat likely 35%

Not very likely 23%

Not at all likely 20%

When thinking about restaurants in general, which of the following would you like to see?

The main ingredients of a dish printed on the menu 72%

The number of calories in dishes printed on the menu 44%

The level of salt in dishes printed on the menu 18%

Spending expectations

How much are young people willing to budget for different types of eating out experience? For fast food, 86% expect to spend under £10. For a high street restaurant like Pizza Express or Nando’s, 61% are looking to spend between £11 and £20 while a quarter are prepared to spend up to £30 per head, including drinks.

For each of the following options, how much would you be prepared to spend on a meal (including drinks)?

Fast food restaurant

Under £10 86%

£11 - £20 12%

£21 - £30 2%

£31 - £40 1%

£41 - £50 0%

More than £50 0%

Local or high street restaurant

Under £10 7%

£11 - £20 61%

£21 - £30 25%

£31 - £40 6%

£41 - £50 1%

More than £50 1%

Michelin starred restaurant

Under £10 3%

£11 - £20 11%

£21 - £30 28%

£31 - £40 27%

£41 - £50 17%

More than £50 16%

Customer experience

We aimed to discover what young people love most about their favourite restaurants – and what they hate.

Thinking of your favourite restaurant for a quick bite, what do you LOVE most about it?

Tasty food 90%

Value for money 78%

Good service 48%

Convenient location 33%

Menu variety 32%

Familiarity / know what to expect 29%

Atmosphere 24%

Venue design 9%

Character / brand (ads, attitude) 4%

Top ten restaurants that are front of mind as favourites for a ‘quick bite’




JD Wetherspoon



Frankie & Benny's


Pizza Hut

Thinking of your favourite restaurant to eat out with friends, what do you LOVE most about it?

Tasty food 86%

Value for money 62%

Good service 51%

Atmosphere 45%

Menu variety 31%

Convenient location 30%

Familiarity / know what to expect 21%

Venue design 14%

Character / brand (ads, attitude) 6%

Top ten restaurants that are front of mind as favourites for a meal out with friends



Frankie & Benny's


JD Weatherpoon

Pizza Hut

TGI Friday's



**Thinking of a restaurant you visited and didn’t like, what did you HATE the most?

Service 60%

Cost 57%

Food 54%

Atmosphere 32%

Menu variety 28%

Unfamiliar 17%

Venue design 12%

Location 10%

Character / brand (ads, attitude) 8%

Thinking of a restaurant you have never visited and don’t want to, what do you think you would HATE most about it?

Food 56%

Cost 55%

Menu variety 34%

Unfamiliar 31%

Atmosphere 29%

Service 29%

Location 18%

Character / brand (ads, attitude) 14%

Venue design 12%

What would attract a young person through the doors of a new restaurant?

Imagine you found a new favourite restaurant. What do you imagine would be the most likely reason you were attracted to it?

Quality food - but cheaper 70%

Interesting menu 54%

Trial offers and discounts 34%

Customer service 26%

A new restaurant concept 22%

Great looking venue 21%

Good customer reviews 19%

Innovative use of technology (eg easy way to pay) 9%

Good media coverage 6%

Strong social media presence 4%

Ads explaining who they are 3%

Restaurant brand values or characteristics that are appealing

Thinking of what makes a great restaurant brand, choose 5 characteristics that appeal to you

Value 52%

Fresh 49%

Friendly 43%

Choices 35%

Satisfying 32%

Healthy 28%

Quick 28%

Authentic 28%

Passionate 26%

Relaxing 25%

Reliable 23%

Innovative 16%

Down-to-earth 16%

Classy 15%

Creative 15%

Fun 13%

Exciting 13%

Ethical 13%

Lively 10%

Attentive 9%

Dedicated 7%

Cool 7%

Qualifying the street food trend

It’s been reported that the urban street food trend is finding appeal among young people, who are responding to novelty, value-for-money, convenience and interesting flavours.

We asked our respondents, who are equally dispersed across the UK, whether they are receptive to the street food concept.

I would consider getting street food as an alternative to going to a restaurant 65%

I would only eat street food whilst travelling abroad 27%

I would never eat street food 8%