Teens Think Starbucks Is A Restaurant

In a survey of thousands of American teens, Starbucks was the most preferred restaurant chain.

Starbucks may have started decades ago as a premium cafe for Seattle yuppies, but the coffee chain — which now has more than 12,000 U.S. outlets — has become a favorite stop for America's teenage consumers too.

In its latest survey, "Taking Stock With Teens," investment bank Piper Jaffray found more teens chose Starbucks as their favorite restaurant than McDonald's, even though the Golden Arches remains the country's largest chain by sales.

The chain's popularity with young consumers is poised to stay strong: A report by Goldman Sachs also said Starbucks was well-positioned to benefit from this new wave of millennial parents who "would not feel guilty/embarrassed to feed to their kids" there.

Piper Jaffray surveyed 9,400 teens with an average age of 16 for the report.

Starbucks was most popular among high-income teens, who come from a family with an average household income of $107,000.

Burrito chain Chipotle, despite having just 1,900 stores, was the upper-income group of teens' second favorite restaurant. Chick-fil-A, an Atlanta-based chicken sandwich chain which only recently started expanding its presence in the Northeast, came in third.

Burger giant McDonald's ranked fourth, followed by Panera.

Among average-income teens, Starbucks was also the preferred chain. But this group had a stronger preference for McDonald's than their wealthier peers.

The mean household income for this group was $52,000. They ranked McDonald's second, higher than both Chipotle and Chick-fil-A. Panera didn't make the top five for average-income teens, with the casual Italian restaurant Olive Garden taking fifth place.

Starbucks' popularity, particularly as it starts to sell more food, reflects the changes in consumer preferences and growing competiton that have been causing problems for McDonald's, which is battling declining sales and will shed 59 U.S. stores this year. The burger chain is in the midst of a turnaround plan than includes new marketing, premium product launches, and all-day breakfast.

Starbucks, meanwhile, reported sales growth of 7% at stores in the Americas region open 13 months or longer for the nine months ending in June.

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