The restaurant industry's clientele is changing.
For many years, Baby Boomers have been the biggest spenders when it came to dining out. But now, a large, hyper-connected cohort with plenty of spending power is on the scene—Millennials, that group between 20 and 30 years old. They make up one-quarter of the US population, and their purchasing power totals over $200 billion, which is twice that of Generation X, those people who are now between 37 and 47 years old.
These young diners communicate more with one another about their dining experience than any other group, sharing photos and reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Urban Spoon. Wow them, and they can become powerful ambassadors on your behalf. But, new food innovation is required to win this high maintenance group's loyalty.
A Matter of Choices
No matter what cuisine you serve in your establishment, it pays off to offer options that accommodate this group’s wide variety of dining preferences.
With 22.8 million diners considering themselves "vegetarian inclined," it is wise to include a number of vegetarian and vegan choices on your menu. Choose well, and these foods can be high-margin, economical offerings that appeal to vegetarians and health conscious guests. It’s also wise to include lower-calorie offerings for health-conscious diners and at least one gluten-free dish.
Many Millennial diners are also increasingly concerned about where their food comes from and how it was produced. When possible, offer local, organic and humanely raised products on your menu—and make sure your diners know about it.
This eye toward sustainability will be noticed and can win you diners in this group.
Expanding the Palette to Please the Palate
Traditionally narrow menus will typically not appeal to millennial diners. These are restaurant guests that are more adventurous than other groups and also more dedicated to seeking one-of-a-kind experiences. To meet their desires, look to dishes beyond the usual chicken, pasta, beef and fish entree options. Explore cuisines that are growing in popularity.
This is a group that seeks both novelty and authenticity in their dining experiences. Look at what ingredients can be sourced locally. Make deals with organic farms and artisan cheese-makers and beer brewers. This sort of food innovation can draw choosy Millennials from all around and make them loyal patrons of your restaurant.
Millennial diners are more likely to carry smart phones and other technology with them when they visit. If you cater to lunchtime diners and ones who stop by for a quick bite after work, make sure that your restaurant is equipped for their technology needs, as well.
Fast-service restaurants that want to encourage patrons to stay longer and spend more should consider adding more outlets and free Wi-fi so that diners can work and charge their device of choice while they eat. When these are provided, your restaurant is more likely to be the place that they pick to have a bite to eat during a busy working lunch.
Hard Won but Worth It
It can take greater effort to win the business of the Millennial diner. But, once you have wooed them, they can be an enormous asset to your business.
This group is more likely than others to share photos of their meals on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. They post comments on Urban Spoon and other review sites. And, they are more likely to look to those sites when seeking out new dining experiences.
When your restaurant provides high levels of food innovation and works to win this high maintenance cohort, you will find that your attention to quality service becomes its own sort of marketing. The effort put into winning the Millennial diner pays off both immediately and over time as your reputation grows.