We’ve all heard that young people in America today are very likely to have loads of student loan debt, relatively little cash to spend, and roommates they know as “Mom” and “Dad.” Interestingly, despite their strapped financial situations, millennials are also more likely than other generations to dine out at upscale restaurants on a regular basis.
According to a new report from the research firm Technomic, 42% of millennials say they visit “upscale casual-dining restaurants” at least once a month. That’s a higher percentage than Gen X (33%) and Baby Boomers (24%) who go to such restaurants once or more monthly, despite the fact that older generations earn more than Gen Y, by and large. Then again, members of Gen Y probably don’t have as many expenses as their older counterparts, who are more likely to have mortgages, multiple car payments, young children, and perhaps older children who have moved back in with them after college or a layoff. Older people have also obviously had more time (and reason) in life to learn how to cook.
The data gibes with the eye-opening New York magazine’s feature published earlier this year about the rise of foodie culture among the young, in particularly among the hipster youth in Brooklyn. The story’s headline – “When Did Young People Start Spending 25% of Their Paychecks on Pickled Lamb’s Tongues?” – pretty much says it all.
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Previous studies have shown that millennials are more likely to make impulse buys on little splurges for themselves, and going out to eat at a nice restaurant would seem to fit in the category. Nonetheless, millennials aren’t necessarily spendthrifts when it comes to dining out. As a group, Gen Y is the most likely to be drawn to deals, with 43% saying they are influenced by coupons and discounts when choosing where to eat. They also seem to prefer combo meals more than older groups.
Of course, if saving money was truly the main concern among millennials, they’d be better off staying home and learning to cook. (Having one’s own kitchen would help.) The preference for combo meals is noteworthy too, for their popularity is waning as customers realize fast-food dollar menus are better deals.
It seems as if part of the reason Gen Y is so comfortable heading out to restaurants regularly is that they’re more optimistic than most about their finances. Half of millennials expect their personal financial situation to get better in the coming year, compared to just 38% overall. Perhaps, though, Gen Y’s “optimism” is rooted in the idea that, considering how bad things have been for them in terms of the jobs market and the economy overall, they’re bound to get better.
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In any event, if you’re confident your finances will improve in the near future, that’s something worth celebrating—perhaps over a meal at a nice restaurant with friends?
Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.