Britain’s foodservice operators have been warned that a drop in the number of younger consumers eating out could cost the industry £800m a year.

Out-of-home (OOH) dining by consumers aged 25 to 34 is predicted to fall by the equivalent of 155 million visits by 2022, according to industry analysts The NPD Group. However, there is an opportunity to compensate for this loss by targeting the over-50s.

Visits from 25- to 34-year-olds have been dropping since 2007, according to NPD’s new report The Future of Foodservice: Great Britain 2022. The study suggests millennials seek new experiences and sources of inspiration that the foodservice industry does not necessarily provide.

“The 25- to 34-year-olds are also facing higher living costs than ever, especially in housing and childcare, and this is prompting them to cut back on foodservice purchases,” said NPD Group UK foodservice director Cyril Lavenant.

The over-50 age group will account for 70% of growth in the country’s population between now and 2022, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Many over-50s are wealthier, more active and more experimental when eating out than previous generations, said NPD, which predicted total OOH visits among people aged 50-plus could increase by 130 million by 2022.

Over-50s are already the biggest spenders when it comes to eating out, with the average restaurant bill for the 50- to 64-year-old age group at £13.41, higher than any of the other age bands.

NPD believes home delivery options could help drive growth in the over-50s market, particularly if operators innovate with lighter products such as low-GI foods, including fruits and vegetables, beans, minimally processed grains, pasta, low-fat dairy foods and nuts.

“Now is the right time to think more about the needs of the over-50s,” added Lavenant. “There are huge differences in levels of fitness, mobility and prosperity as people move beyond 50 and into their 60s and 70s. But this is still a big opportunity for the foodservice industry.”

“Balancing lower eat-out business among 25-to-34s in the next five years with more business from the over 50s will be a challenge. But Britain’s foodservice operators have the skills to address this.”

NPD said brands and advertisers in many industries were beginning to make the over-50s more of a priority, adding that the foodservice industry should do the same.