Menu innovation and older consumers’ increased spending are among the top 10 trends shaping the restaurant industry in 2014, according to The NPD Group.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm released its list of predictions for the industry in the year ahead and beyond, ranging from the impact of baby boomers and seniors to the effect of prepared meals at supermarkets on market share.

“If there is anything that’s a common theme here — maybe more so than in years past — it’s menu innovation, “ said NPD Group restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs.

New top-selling products of 2013, such as Wendy’s pretzel bun burger and Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos, were based on innovation, Riggs said.

“Those that came out with something really different and unique had big hits,” she said. “That’s what it is going to take to get especially the Millennials and younger folks out of the home and back into restaurants.”

However, operators should also closely watch the increased spending among baby boomers and seniors, as this group is “keeping the industry afloat,” Riggs added. “They are the ones that are increasing their usage of restaurants, while those younger — under 50 — have pulled back dramatically and are still pulling back,” Riggs said.

Baby boomers’ and seniors’ usage rate of restaurants is now heavier than younger generations, she said, and many of them continue to delay retirement. “They are the driver of any growth that the industry is achieving,” she added. “They tell us they want comfortable seating, less noisy restaurants [and] a menu that is easy to read. We need to pay attention to them.”

NPD’s top 10 trends it expects to influence the restaurant industry also included:

An improving economy. Real disposable income is forecast to grow, inflation will remain moderate, and unemployment will continue to inch down in the year ahead.

“While consumers’ mindset for cautious, controlled spending is expected to remain in place for some time, our forecast of traffic and dollar growth for 2014 shows improved performance compared to 2013,” NPD said.