I don't think the decline of the family restaurant generates as much sympathy as the decline of the family farm. If it did, super-sized price supports and subsidies for burgers and fries would be right around the corner:
Unhappy days for America’s family restaurants, by Paul Sullivan, Financial Times: Casual restaurants have supplanted family restaurants in terms of revenue for the first time since the US census started measuring this in the 1970s. The shift means the burger, fries and milkshake ideal evoked by the sitcom Happy Days is losing its hold on the American appetite. The restaurant data, which the 2002 census made available only this week, showed places that serve meals costing $10-$20 now make up 45 per cent of all dining dollars, up from 33.2 per cent in the last census in 1997. Those that serve meals costing less than $10 per person have fallen to 36.8 per cent from 49.6 per cent.
“I didn’t think that within a five-year timeframe we’d see family restaurants eclipsed by casual restaurants,” said Malcolm Knapp, a restaurant economist in New York who analysed the data and has been working with the Census Bureau since 1972. “Casual is now the dominant group in terms of sales ... and it’s not going back.”
Chains such as Ruby Tuesday, Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse now win more dining dollars than such staples of 1950s and 60s America as Denny’s, Big Boy and the International House of Pancakes. ... “America keeps raising the standard of what normal living is. You can see that perfectly in the restaurants,” said Mr Knapp. People are “taking their kids to casual and themselves to casual plus”. ... All is not lost, though, for the family restaurant. While fewer people may eat dinner there, they still draw crowds for their good, cheap breakfasts.
I wonder what's driving this trend?