Social connection prompts dining out over eating in

Millennials boost the rise

 

Last year a Bloomberg report noted that in March 2015, for the first time ever, Americans spent more money dining out than buying groceries and eating in. Sales at restaurants and bars surpassed those at grocery stores for the first time since the Commerce Department began collecting data in 1992. Contributing to the rise are the Millennials (age 18 to 34) who view dining out as a social event and a chance to connect with each other often.

“Eating out is a ritual for my husband and me,” said Murray Hill resident Katherine Hardwick, 33. “For us it’s about connection with each other and our friends, and also about supporting local businesses, and enjoying an active lifestyle.”

For others, like Joshua Garrett, 29, who works out of his home, eating out gets him out of the house. “As a ‘solo-prenuer’ I’m always working. Going out is a business/networking opportunity,” said Garrett, of Avondale. “I’ve met many new people and made many new business relationships while eating out. Going out is one of the more enjoyable aspects to my work. The act of eating isn’t necessarily the reason I go out anymore, it’s just something that happens along the way.”

Allan DeVault, managing partner for Black Sheep Restaurant, said while everyone is eating out more often in general, Millennials eat out at least once a day.

“There are fewer hours at home to cook, and there are so many options for good, fresh food served relatively fast,” said DeVault. “It’s also one of the few things you can’t get online.”

DeVault stated the restaurant business as a whole is growing, as is the population of people choosing to dine out. “The proliferation of social media shows you that Millennials like to eat out, and they like to take pictures of it,” he said, noting that the average age of diners at Black Sheep lowers by 50 percent during the weekend. “Brunch is a big deal for the Millennial; it’s an opportunity to go out for a nice meal relatively inexpensively.”

What’s cooking

Regardless of age, there’s no lack of new dining choices or old favorites in Jacksonville’s Historic Districts. Established restaurants like The Brick, Bluefish Restaurant and Oyster Bar and Biscottis continue to seat loyal patrons, while newer restaurants such as Mellow Mushroom, Sushiko and Il Desco are gaining their share of satisfied customers in Riverside and Avondale. Mid-summer, visitors to South Kitchen & Spirits on Park Street will find a blend of indoor and outdoor seating options in the 200-seat restaurant, said Brian Siebenschuh, executive chef and managing partner.

In 5 Points, crowd favorites Mossfire Grill, O’Brothers Irish Pub, and Black Sheep have been joined in the past year by Hawker’s Asian Street Fare, Corner Taco and M Shack. This month, Timoti’s Seafood Shak, plans to open between Raindogs and Peterson’s 5 & Dime.

Hoptinger Bier Garden and Sausage House began construction last month, after winning a battle with the Historic Planning Commission to retain the façade design as originally proposed and approved by the commission. The restaurant owners are aiming for a summer 2016 opening, according to Steve Williams, owner of Peterson’s 5 & Dime building. Williams also said there will be a rooftop element, but as of press time could not share details.

Just north of 5 Points, at 220 Riverside, diners are trying out the newly opened Hobnob Restaurant and Sbraga & Company, which will be joined by Brixx Wood Fired Pizza, scheduled to open this summer. At Brooklyn Station on Riverside, the Corner Bakery Café, Burger Fi, and Zoe’s Kitchen opened last year, and Burrito Gallery is opening this month.

Black Sheep Restaurant, a popular 5 Points meeting and eating place, is taking its popularity downtown with the early summer 2016 opening of another location. Initially only open for lunch, owners Allan DeVault and Jon Insetta have plans to expand to dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 100 N. Laura St., while in Hemming Park they will open a kiosk, also expected to be open for lunch crowds in the spring.

“At 320 square feet the buildout [of the kiosk] is ridiculously high, but we have to put in a restroom and hook into all the utilities,” said DeVault. “But we see it as a natural extension of our brand, and it will be great for the community. It won’t be a big money maker or loser; the justification to do this comes from the benefit to Hemming Park and downtown.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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