Parsing out the nuanced foodservice appetites of the emergent Millennial demographic has enthralled the restaurant world so much lately that it’s easy to forget that customers in the 50-and-up crowd still wield 70 percent of the nation’s disposable income, and that they’re at a stage in life where they’re quite willing to spend it—if the establishment can provide just the right mix of service, quality, and affordability.
To help out senior citizens and restaurants alike, AARP has dubbed September “Dining Out Month,” to promote the nonprofit interest group’s roster of restaurant partnerships and discounts to its members.
“We’ve got nearly 38 million members, so that’s a pretty big customer base that we bring to the table,” says managing director with AARP Services, Dave Austin.
To get them to the right tables, AARP conducts an annual study on the dining habits of the 50-plus segment, which this past year found that food quality held steady as the No. 1 draw for deciding on one restaurant over another. In second place, though, price and customer service were close enough to be interchangeable, which Austin says highlights the critical importance of service when it comes to getting this demographic to try out a new venue, adding that the promotions are meant to both “bring new and better value to our members, but also to bring customers or a new segment to restaurants.” As one last crucial data point, Austin adds that AARP members have higher check averages than any other segment.
Some of the restaurants currently included in the AARP Member Advantages portfolio run the gamut from fine dining experiences at Chart House and Landry’s Seafood, to laid-back meals at Denny’s and Outback Steakhouse. Beyond the discounts offered at those restaurants and many others, members can also receive enviable benefits like a free donut to pair with the purchase of a large or extra-large beverage at any Dunkin’ Donuts location. As an added perk for this month’s promotional efforts, the frozen yogurt brand sweetFrog is offering 15 percent discounts to AARP members at all of its U.S. locations.
The organization has an in-depth vetting process when it comes to choosing the right restaurants to pair with in accordance with which establishments can offer the most value to its members, and Austin says that AARP members trust the brands the company associates with, driving up both brand image and incremental sales, all while providing the best food and service to customers over 50.
The decision to promote these deals comes at a time when many AARP members are starting off on fall road trips and are more likely to dine out.
“They have dollars to spend, and they’re willing to spend it,” he says. “And travel and entertainment—which translates to dining—is where they spend those key disposable dollars.”
By Emily Byrd