One day I randomly stumbled upon an article by Money placing blame on millennials for being responsible for the decline in sales in casual dining restaurants. I thought it was just another thing that millennials were getting blamed for, but then I read the facts, reflected on my own habits and my friend's habits, and I've come to realize that this is probably true.

I grew up eating at Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse, but they slowly faded deep into my memory and became overshadowed with options like Chipotle and Panera. I never gave them much thought as I dreamed about my burrito bowls or kebabs from Zoe's Kitchen.

For those of you who aren't sure what "casual dining" means, these are the kinds of places where reservations are not necessary, you can wear T-shirts or sports uniforms, and you get served casually by a waitress and leave a tip.

Think: TGI Friday's, Chili's, Applebee's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Olive GardenOutback Steakhouse, and many more. I, like most millennials, grew up going to these places, but I can't remember the last time I've been to one. Can you?

The Problem

2016 was the worst year for restaurants since the recession, dubbed by some as the "restaurant recession." The casual dining industry took the bulk of the hit. For example, Chili's saw a decline of 6.2 percent in store traffic and the owner of Carrabba's and Outback will be closing 43 locations.

That being said, there are many reasons to attribute this "restaurant recession" to. 2016 was one of the cheapest years for groceries, encouraging people to eat at home. Shopping malls are also less and less popular, which tend to be surrounded by casual dining restaurants or have them inside. 

However, while there are a multitude of reasons, market analysis shows that millennials play a huge part in this decrease in sales. 

But, why?

Millennials more often than not prefer cheap, fast, and healthy food. This has led millennials to opt to dine at "fast casual" establishments, which include Chipotle, Noodles & Company, Zoe's Kitchen, Panera, Panda Express, Which Wich, and Shake Shack, rather than the traditional casual dining spots many grew up with. 

One can get great quality burgers and fries at Shake Shack for under $9, whereas a burger at Outback Steakhouse is over $12, not including tip. 

In addition to convenience and price, millennials tend to pick trendier options; there's nothing trendy about Applebee's or TGI Friday's. Fast casual dining options allow millennials to dine cheaply and quickly in sleek environments with food that is healthier (or isn't). Chipotle is a prime example of the sleek architecture and fresh ingredients that have come to make up the fast casual model. 

Based on a survey of over 50 college students from across the country, 66 percent said they eat out only 1-2 times a week and 76 percent of the time, it is at fast casual restaurants. 

Choosing authenticity over chain restaurants, 96 percent of surveyors said they would rather go to a "mom and pop" or locally owned restaurant than a well-established chain restaurant when looking for a sit-down meal. Casual dining just seems to be dated. 

So, what now?

Don't get me wrong, I wish the best for you, casual dining. I have some great memories at Chili's and Outback, but I can't say I am too inclined to return when I can get fresher food faster and cheaper at Dig Inn or Five Guys.

Maybe this is the end of casual dining, or maybe it isn't. Casual dining restaurants seem to be taking huge strides in their marketing to overcome this loss of sales.

Again, take for example, Chili's. They are now marketing "cast iron skillet sides" and margaritas with Patrón and Presidente. Honestly, those sound pretty good. Their Instagram is even full of young people happily drinking margaritas and eating at Chili's.

This is a really complex phenomenon with numerous factors. But, as millennials increasingly join the work force and are making and spending their own money, they have more and more control in the landscape of the restaurant market.

That being said, will you be getting your carnitas from Chipotle or Chili's? Your call.