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Casual restaurants are at a critical breaking point. Consumers—hello, millennials and Gen Z—are increasingly fleeing legacy chains, from Applebee’s to Olive Garden, in favor of trendier, tech-savvy, more health-conscious options. Applebee’s announced plans to close between 60 and 80 eateries in 2018, citing a millennial-driven decline in foot traffic as a major factor. Sister brand IHOP announced plans to shutter 30 to 40 locations this year, too.
As a result, chains from TGI Fridays to Buffalo Wild Wings are moving away from their old, stale images and adopting an atmosphere that’s more fitting to younger consumers—craft cocktails, an Instagrammable atmosphere with picturesque menu items and broader to-go and mobile ordering services.