(WVEC) -- Casual dine-in restaurant sales dropped 2.4% in 2016, the worst year for that business since the recession.
Even when Applebee’s spent $40 million to spruce up their restaurants, sales still fell 3.7-percent.
Ruby Tuesday closed 95 locations across the country because of slumping sales.
Who’s to blame?
In a letter to investors, Buffalo Wild Wings C.E.O Sally Smith wrote:
“Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants, and eating quickly, in fast-casual or quick-serve restaurant.”
Many millennials took this as yet another way that the previous generation was passing the blame to them and they ripped the company apart on social media.
DONT YOU DARE BLAME US. Millennials appreciate quality boneless buffalo wings and triple chocolate meltdowns. https://t.co/uqGcatzKvV— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) June 3, 2017
Y'all blame us for everything. "Stupid millennials and their cell phones don't wanna spend $20 for 8 wings" https://t.co/BdhFtJLX3d— Mike (@mike_n30) June 3, 2017
Applebee's and Buffalo Wild Wings exist to make lunches easier at the sort of office jobs millennials don't get. https://t.co/2i6DFypLBd— Kaleb Horton (@kalebhorton) June 3, 2017
Applebees is dying because their food comes from the frozen aisle at Wal-Mart, not because of millenials— Schultz (@MDschizzle) June 9, 2017
“I definitely think that this is kind of a situation where they are trying to blame the customer necessary for something that’s not working versus trying to bring the customer to the table,” said Hannah Billings with Global Shapers Norfolk, a group that pushes for change with the interest of millennials in mind.
Millennials are savoring the taste of a growing food sector, meal-delivery kits such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Sun Basket.
“At one end you had the fast food segment, at the other end you had to casual dining segment and in the middle you have the fast casual, the Chipotle’s and the Paneras. This wasn’t there and this is the segment that’s affecting the Applebee’s and the Ruby Tuesdays,” said Kiran Karande, Ph.D., Associate Dean at Old Dominion University’s Strome College of Business.
Casual dine-in restaurants are now playing catch-up, with places like Cheesecake Factory, TGI Fridays, Chili's, and Maggiano's launching early-stage delivery ventures.
But even as sales slump in a market that made massive gains because of the popularity of its elder, casual dine-in restaurants still reel in billions from consumers very year.