Coming in at 92 million strong, easily making them the largest generation in the country, the Millennial generation is a driving force in the reshaping of the way restaurants operate. Typically referring to those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, they range from 3rd graders to 30-somethings and are characterized by a general set of traits. These traits are special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, conventional (or “neotraditional”), pressured, and, unlike their predecessors in Generation X, driven to achieve. While of course these are over-arching generalizations, they do hold merit. On top of all of this is a huge attachment to technology and an intense desire for connectedness.
When considering how to appeal to this generation, a restaurant must first look at what it is a Millennial is looking for in their dining experience.
Millennials view dining out as a social event, and use restaurants and a place to gather. Because of this, research has shown that a “fun” and “hip” place to go is significantly more important to Millennials than Generation X or the Baby Boomers. Millennials also care about low prices, availability of alcohol, and whether or not the menu offers the item that they are “craving for.” More than anything though, Millennials are addicted to options and trying new things, and of course sharing it with their network before they eat it.
“This generation really does think with their stomachs, and tends to be less health conscious, in the sense that metabolism still tends to be higher and they’re not facing specific dietary needs like Boomers do, so the need for low-sodium, low-carb, or low-sugar is not as prevalent in this group,” Sara Monnette, director of consumer research at foodservice research firm Technomic, explains. New or unique flavors are sought after as well because this group is more adventurous and enjoys trying new things, Monnette adds. “Because of their online presence and social media [lifestyle], they like to talk about the experiences that they’re having—not only for their own benefit, satisfying their own taste buds, or their need to be adventurous and try something new, but also a part of that social inclusion, that if they go to a new restaurant and try the newest burger, then they can talk about it and share it with their network.”
So in order to reach this burgeoning demographic, new restaurants are coming out guns blazing while more established chains are having to change their ways in order to appeal. The National Restaurant Association suggests the following when marketing to millenials:
Encourage word-of-mouth recommendations: Millennials greatly value friends’ opinions when making decisions. Because referrals are so rampant among them, restaurateurs can consider spending less on new marketing and capitalizing more on their existing customer base. Market to this group well and you’ll probably reach their friends.
Maximize your social networking: Ensure you have an engaging online presence including interactive Twitter and Facebook profiles. Run any promotions across all social media platforms. Include calls to action that allow Millennials to interact with your brand.
Highlight your social responsibility: Millennials are socially aware and responsible. They connect with brands that support sustainability and give back to the community. If you have them, emphasize organic, hormone-free, grass-fed and locally sourced items in menus, promotions and ads. Don’t overemphasize “green” and recycling – millennials already expect these as ground-level efforts. Look for new ways to become even more involved in community events and organizations. Learn easy tips and best practices by joining Conserve.
Show you’re digitally integrated: Use table tents with QR codes to your website, online promos and social media. Offer free wireless Internet in your restaurants to accommodate Millennials’ drive for connection. Provide them with access to texted promotions and location “check-in” specials, as well as the ability to communicate with your brand on the web.
Offer novelty: Millennials are drawn to new ideas; creativity; fresh, innovative design; and graphics that move. Because they love to try things, offer samples of your latest food and beverage items at your point-of-purchase counter as well.
Communicate with a warm, personal tone: When reaching out to millennials, consider using emotive stories and anecdotes instead of statistics. Keep your messages clear and direct. Also ensure that your communications reflect their diversity. Your internal Millennial staff can be excellent resources for ideas on creating and placing the right messages.
Millennials are the future of your restaurant business. Connect with them now in ways that matter to them and you’ll know why they matter so much to you.