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Gen O: Are we dining out on our savings pots?

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Think back to thousands of years ago. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, foraging for wild animals and plants solely as a way to survive. Fast forward to Britain today, and for many of us, our eating decisions are no longer exclusively based on a pursuit of nutrition. Dining out is now a major social activity – indulging ourselves, sampling new dishes and savouring varied tastes. But what impact is this having on our finances?

We recently carried out a survey1 which looked at the spending habits of Generation Ostrich (Gen O), the 16-34 year olds with their heads in the savings sand. The survey revealed that more than one in five now spend most of their disposable income on eating out. Speaking to Lara Piras, a youth culture expert and brand strategist, we explored Gen O’s eating habits and the current trends around eating out. We’ve also investigated how much this is costing and the impact it’s ultimately having on the ability to save for the long-term.

one in ten

Eat out as an occasion a few times a week

one in five

Spend most of their disposable income on eating out

25 percent

Find eating out at least once a month a necessity

49 percent

Feel pressure to spend more money socialising with friends/family

Source: Aviva research run in consultation with Future Foundation and ICM (2016) Data based on Gen O: aged 16-24

8 reasons Gen O are spending more on eating out

1. Dining out has become second nature

Our survey revealed that a quarter (25%) of Gen O think eating out at least once a month is something they’d find hard to live without. This suggests that where dining out was previously a novelty saved for special occasions, it’s now become a regular occurrence for many, with the cost of these meals quickly adding up.

2. Paying a premium for the experience

We’re now driving the ‘experience economy’, with a shift in focus from the food itself. There’s now more exciting restaurants with enticing USPs popping up around the UK. Some diners are willing to pay a premium to be part of a unique experience.

3. Location, location, location

Just like the appeal of an unusual dining experience, the location of a restaurant also plays a big role in Gen O’s eating decisions. From rooftop restaurants perched in the sky with breathtaking views over a city, to floating cafes overlooking the water – customers are often happy to spend more on their food to eat in a superior location outside the four walls of their home.

Shard restaurant
Photo credit: Her Favourite Food

4. False sense of exclusivity

Restaurant queue

More frequently, we’re seeing restaurants increase their exclusiveness by adopting some of the following techniques:

  • Minimal advertising and reliance on word-of-mouth recommendations: Guests feel that they’re not part of a mass crowd or visiting a generic chain.
  • Pop up or temporary food outlets: Create a sense of urgency to visit before they disappear again.
  • Secret entrances and hidden doorways: Minimise any commercial atmosphere, with diners feeling part of an exclusive, ‘underground’ food scene.
  • No booking options: Foodies are happy to wait months for a reservation, or queue in the rain, just to check out the latest food hype.

5. Variety is the spice of life

Gen O are now more adventurous than ever, wanting to try diverse tastes and experiment with unfamiliar flavours. Piras agrees that “it seems everyday there's a new must-have ingredient, whether that's Turmeric or Spirulina.” This is adding to their desire to eat out more frequently and try new and exciting dishes with friends. Many are now wanting to sample cuisines from different countries and cultures – visiting food festivals and ordering tasting menus. Market and street food is also growing in popularity, as they offer an eclectic array of choices for foodies to pick from.

sample cuisines
bbq outside
Photo credit: @clerkenwellboyec1

6. Need for speed (and convenience)

mobile point

Piras tells us that one reason why Gen O eat out more regularly is “most definitely to do with convenience, as they'd prefer to spend their time socialising with friends or being digitally connected than to cook.” According to our survey, 47% of Gen O are willing to spend money for increased convenience, and one in five never make a packed lunch on a weekday. This highlights that as a result of their busy lives, they’ll pay more to eat out rather than take the time to buy cheaper ingredients and make a homemade meal. There’s also lots of new digi services and apps which are making it easier than ever to order food to the door at the click of a button. This “frees up their precious time and answers to their demanding personas where everything is expected right here, right now in the most simplest of ways.”

7. Tastebud teasing: FOMO and social media

Fear of missing out, or ‘FOMO’ has resulted in many Gen O diners eating out to meet their social or cultural desires, rather than to satisfy any hunger needs. Piras tells us that Gen O “are hugely influenced by social media when it comes to any and every aspect of food.” There’s now thousands of instagram accounts with perfectly photographed snaps of food, food bloggers regularly sharing new dining experiences, as well as popular hashtags that show appetising “shots of food trends of the moment”. With a constant online reminder of new mouthwatering food and restaurants, it’s now more tempting than ever for Gen O to spend money so they can check out these dishes.

eggs benedict Photo credit: @bittenwritten

3 mouthwatering Instagram accounts:

  1. @clerkenwellboyec1 143K followers
  2. @bittenwritten 18.1K followers
  3. @herfavfood 6.4K followers

8. The cost of keeping up with food and health trends

With ever shifting trends, from superfoods through to bottomless brunches, Gen O don’t want to miss out on any new crazes. Piras explains that “the youth sector are driving the future of the food industry and bringing with them a host of new trends that they're influencing on a wider scale.” She reveals that there’s “a growing number of super young food influencers in the UK that are pioneering trends such as grain-heavy diets,” and it’s clear that Gen O are willing to pay more to keep up with their peers.

Gen O eating themselves out of house and home?

A combination of these factors have encouraged a significant proportion of Gen O to spend more on eating out. This has resulted in 62% of this generation admitting that they don’t have enough disposable income to save for the future. However, our latest Family Finances Report2 revealed that 43% of Gen O prioritise being able to afford spending money on eating out. Therefore, it’s clear that dining out is an important and valuable part of Gen O’s livelihood. So we’ve been in touch with some likeminded foodies, to gather a list of handy tips to help Gen O save money on eating out, without sacrificing their social lives.

Saving Money on Eating Out

We got in touch with some Gen O foodies, who shared their top tips to help you save money on eating out, without sacrificing your social life.

Start saving here

Gen O Social Pressures

Find out how social pressures and the ‘Fear of Missing Out’ are encouraging Gen O to spend more money now, instead of saving for the future.

Find out why

Additional sources

[1]The research was run in consultation with Future Foundation and ICM. The findings are based on 5,000 online interviews among a nationally representative sample of UK adults aged 18 and above, carried out in February 2016 and analysed during February/ March 2016.
[2]Aviva Family Finances Report 2016

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