The Old Fart Factor in Restaurant Selection
The OLD FART FACTOR
The OFF – Old Fart Factor – in selecting Restaurants
Having spent the last 6 years in a resort town with a relatively large population of retirees (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina), and now that I have recently moved to Florida, I have developed a theory for qualifying Restaurants, based on retiree attendance.
I call my theory the OFF or Old Fart Factor. The Old Fart Factor indicates how well a restaurant rates to retirees and for them to eat there regularly.
One of the things that I have noticed, over the past several years is that although restaurants may come and go in a town, the retirees are there to stay. Or, being a little maudlin here, they are there until they go on.
These retirees worked long years, they saved, and eventually, the lucky ones relocated to a nicer climate or location and settled in to enjoy themselves through their “golden years”.
But before they end up …… ending up, so to speak, they devote those retiree years to doing things that they enjoy, and one of those things is going out to eat.
Some retirees eat out once a week, and some eat out 3-4 days a week. Often the frequency is dependent on their financial comfort level, but regardless of how much money they have, they will go out and eat.
Early Bird Specials:
Probably one of the first concessions to this special group of spenders was the concept of the “Early Bird Special” offering by some restaurants.
You see, when most Retirees eat, it will usually be an early dinner. Why? Well, I have heard a lot of different reasons, but most of the retirees I have talked to are no longer part of the “burn the candle at both ends” crowd.
They rarely eat late dinners, they rarely go to dances at 10-PM and stay out partying until two or three in the morning, and they rarely “tie one on” bar hopping until all hours of the morning.
As most of them will say, “I been there, and I done that!” and then you will probably get a mention of their medications, their physical problems, etc, all followed by an explanation that “anyway, there is a movie/ball game/show that I want to watch on TV at 8-PM”.
Peoples lifestyles do change as they get older. And older people do tend to prefer to be at home and comfortable, often in front of their TV, rather than be out late at night.
To this end, some smart restaurant owners figured out the “Early Bird Special”. This little trick is a gold mine for a restaurant.
What they figured out was that;
1- their usual dinner crowd eats starting at 7-PM,
2- 2-their chefs typically have to be at the restaurant by 3-4-PM to start preparations for the dinner crowd anyway, and
3- 3- Why not open early, say at 5-PM and offer a special for older couples (or whomever) that want to save a little money and at a time that prefer to eat anyway.
The successful restaurants, the ones that provided these Early Bird Specials, ended up with an additional crowd of customers.
These early eaters got the same dinner special that was offered later but with slightly smaller portions, and at a considerably discounted price.
Retiree Restaurant Standards
Retiree Restaurant Standards:
Understand that the typical retiree, who has spent decades pinching every penny and saving for their retirement, is not going to just up and change his ways overnight.
No, they are going to get the most for their money when they do spend it.
Over the years, I see well-to-do retirees sitting at tables next to retirees that obviously don’t have much money, and if you talk to them about why they are eating at that particular restaurant, they will both invariably mention these same requirements that must be met for them to eat there.
And when they do go out to eat, they want the restaurant to meet their special list of personal standards. Below is a list of some of standards that Retirees expect to be met, if they are going to eat regularly at a restaurant.
Now back to the OFF or OLD FARTS FACTOR.
For one thing, I have noticed that if you pull into a restaurant that is open at 5-PM, and the parking lot is crowded at that time of day, then this is a strong indicator that they are probably serving to an Early Bird Menu and/or they have foods that meet the OFF requirements for an acceptable meal.
Then, if you walk into the restaurant, and you see that a large section of the population of diners look to be older than 65-years-old, and they all seem to be smiling and laughing, then the OFF is high.
And if you look closer and see that a lot of these “older diners” are eating together at tables for four or more, and not just singles or one couple at a table, then this is another indicator that the OFF is high.
You see retirees (like all age groups) tend to go out with friends to have a good time and eat at their favorite places, and not alone.
So ….. How does a restaurant get to have a high OFF? Well, I have separated some of the driving issues that will make even the tightest retiree want to go to a restaurant over and over. The major ones are listed below:
Type of Food: This is the one category that you can’t lock down because retirees will eat just about anything. It is a fact that it is hard to find a retiree who really cares how healthy the food that they are eating is for them. Ask them and they will probably tell you something like: “My wife makes me eat that healthy crap all week. When I go out I eat whatever I want!”
Of course this is a general statement. There are some retirees who watch what they eat even when they go out but they are no where near being in the majority.
Like most Smokers who haven’t quit, when you mention that a dish that they are eating is not a healthy one, the standard response you will get is; “I lived this long eating this stuff every day of the week and I am as healthy as an Ox. So, I don’t see any reason to stop eating it now. By God! So leave me alone”.
And if you take into effect the fact that retirees come from all walks of life, sections of the country, ethnic backgrounds, and such, you will find them eating in almost every type of restaurant, as far as the type of food served is concerned.
2-Price of Food:The price of the food is a major selection criteria for retirees. They didn’t save all that money they have to retire on by being big spenders. They are very Frugal, and they want a real deal on the food they eat.
For the average night out, they want a meal that they pay so little for that they are (almost) too embarrassed to pay for it without leaving a big tip for the waiter to ease their conscious. So, in the back of all retirees minds is that little word; Price, Price, Price!
3-Quantity of Food:The next thing that is important to retirees is the quantity of the food that they are served. You see most retirees never accept the fact that they aren’t performing hard physical work any more that drove them to eat enormous meals to make up for what they burned at work.
Nor do they accept that they have been eating very small portions of food since they grew older and especially since they have retired.
They want to get their money’s worth, and to this end, they expect to be served large portions. Their memories and their eyes tell them that they have to eat big meals.
So their expectation is to get enough food to fill themselves up. And often “at a GOOD restaurant” they end up having enough left over to take home in a Styrofoam box for another meal tomorrow.
4-Quality of Food:The Quality of the food they are served is also important to the retiree. Oh, the mashed potatoes can be lukewarm, even instant, if the price is good, and the meat that is served is very good.
Most retirees are meat-eaters, and that’s what they want to eat. Beef, Pork, Chicken, seafood, etc, whatever, but it had better be Hot, it had better be a large portion, and it had better be easy to chew.
Cleanliness of Food:And, the death knell for a restaurant can be serving a dish that makes a retiree sick, or god forbid, have diarrhea. Word will spread throughout a retiree community, about a bad dish being eaten at a restaurant, faster than a sex scandal about a politician.
Have it happen to two or more people, and the owner may as well sell the place because the retirees just are not going back there. They have enough health problems and they do not need to be sitting on the old porcelain throne for a couple of days just because the chef served some unwashed lettuce, or whatever.
6- Presentation of Food:This one is not really an important factor to retirees. I mean, they usually do not go out to eat to “Ohh and Ahh” over how pretty the chef laid out the dish. They came there to eat good cheap food.
And, of course, there is just so much you can do to a hunk of Beef and two side vegetables to make the dish look good.
Of course, this also is a generalization and retirees to go out to fine restaurants and enjoy all of the “bells and whistles” that come with the meal, but the average meal out is what I am addressing here.
7-Level of Kids:Many retirees will deny this but they do not want to go out and eat and be set beside a family with several children. They just don’t want to hear the crying and screaming along with the parents constant admonitions to the kids.
The most popular statement I have heard is: “When we raised our Kids, if they acted like that, we would take them out to the car and whip their butts! Now days, they will arrest you if you do that!”
Another one is: “I raised my kids, why the Hell do I have to listen to this crap from their brats?”
The examples can go on forever, but suffice it to say that retirees do not go and eat where there are a lot of children. They want to enjoy their meal and their friends company, and not be distracted by unruly children.
Except in an emergency situation, of course. Situations such as when traveling and eating on the road, or when in a hurry to eat and go, etc.
In Summary: So, putting all of this together, you can judge a restaurant on the OFF scale if you consider these categories of priorities that retirees use whether consciously or unconsciously.
So the next time you walk into a restaurant, early in the evening, and see a lot of older people sitting in there, having a good time, and eating to their hearts content, you should assume the following; the food is cheap, the food is good, the portions are abundant, the kitchen is clean, and there aren’t going to be many kids eating there. You see …. The restaurant has a high OLD FARTS FACTOR rating. So set yourself down and enjoy.
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