Forever in the shadow of Boomers and Millennials, Gen Xers can now take center stage as an important customer base for restaurants, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Generation X, ages 36 to 52, now represents 23 percent of all restaurant visits, not a significant difference from Boomers and Millennials, who represent 26 and 25 percent of visits respectively, according to a new foodservice study published by NPD Group.

“Boomers and Millennials still make the most visits to restaurants and foodservice outlets, but Gen Xers aren’t far behind,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “Many Gen Xers are looking to the convenience and experience restaurants offer because their kids are older and more independent.”

One way restaurants can reach Gen X is through promoting upcoming holiday dinner specials. The new AudienceSCAN survey reported 15% of Gen X celebrated New Year’s Eve at a restaurant, bar or hotel, and 20% celebrated Valentine’s Day at a restaurant or hotel.

With restaurant traffic growth stalled for the last few years, restaurant operators are looking to increase their traffic share wherever they can, and a focus on Generation X, who represent 20 percent of the U.S. population, could be among the answers, finds the NPD study, What Matters Most To Key Generational Groups, which is based on the company’s Checkout Trackingsmservice, which analyzes real receipts from actual consumers and can follow the same consumer’s purchasing behavior over time. The study, which details what’s key in targeting each generational group, points out that Gen Xers enjoy dining out and because they are more likely to have dual income have the money to do it. They place high importance on food quality, the ability to customize, and craving satisfaction.

Gen X will take notice of TV spots and direct mail campaigns. Entice them with food photography! According to the new AudienceSCAN data, 37% of Gen X took action after watching a commercial in the past month, and 35% responded to ads/coupons mailed to them.

“In a competitive environment it’s important for restaurant operators to understand how to gain the attention of important consumer groups,” says Riggs. “With a better understanding of what matters most to key generational groups, marketers can address the unique needs/behaviors of these consumers and create strategies to enhance engagement and increase sales by building loyalty among those groups most important to their business.”

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.