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Starbucks remains favorite restaurant for teens: Piper survey

FILE - This Jan. 3, 2012 file photo shows the Starbucks Coffee logo in Mountain View, Calif. Starbucks Corp. is pushing beyond coffee with the opening of its first Evolution Fresh Inc. juice store, the company said Monday, March 19, 2012. ( AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

Starbucks (SBUX) is again the favorite restaurant chain among U.S. teens, according to the latest spending survey from Piper Jaffray.

The Seattle-based coffee seller, Taco Bell, Chipotle (CMG) and McDonald's (MCD) all rank highly with this demographic when asked to choose the favorite restaurants. Piper has two lists, one for upper-income respondents and another for average-income respondents, and here are the results, in order:

--Upper income (household income of $109,000): Starbucks, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts

--Average income (household income of $56,000): Starbucks, McDonald's, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell

Starbucks has been No. 1 with both groups for each of the last eight surveys. Chipotle has been a consistent No. 2 with upper-income teens, while McDonald's has held that spot for the average-income group.

Chipotle has been in third place with average-income respondents for the last two surveys, having replaced Olive Garden this past spring. In the upper-income group, Chick-fil-A replaced McDonald's as No. 3 in the spring survey, moving the Golden Arches down to fourth, where it remains. With upper-income respondents, Dunkin' replaced Panera Bread (PNRA) at No. 5.

The survey is conducted twice a year, and it covers spending on a range of items, from technology and music to clothing. The food component provides a measure of how eating habits are changing or not. It's regularly said with anecdotes or research data that, regarding chain restaurants, millennials are favoring "healthier" and socially conscious approaches to food -- attributes generally associated with fast-casuals such as Chipotle, and not as frequently with Burger King (BKW) and McDonald's. In response, traditional chains more often are trying to gain the loyalty of younger consumers with salads, chicken and wraps.

In total, food accounted for 20% of spending, behind only clothing at 21%. That's increased over the years, as food was around 15% of spending in the 2003, 2006 and 2009 surveys. Overall annual spending, per person, averaged $2,725 in the survey, with parents responsible for the majority of those dollars spent (66% in the average-income group and 70% in the upper-income group).

The survey also found that 41% of teens are eating organic foods, up from 40% in the spring and above the 39% average of surveys going back to the fall of 2011.

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