It’s no secret that millennials have become a critical piece of today’s economy. Those born between 1980 and 2000 now make up 25% of the U.S. population and have a hefty $2.45 trillion in spending power behind them. Not only that, but millennials are eating out more than any other generation before. For anyone in the restaurant industry you are probably seeing some serious dollar signs right now, but knowing the power of the millennial customer is one thing and knowing how to market your restaurant to millennials is another.
With very different values and dining preferences than Generation X and the Baby Boomers before them, specific attention and effort has to be given to attract this predominant, new demographic. Now more than ever do businesses needs to be aware of the restaurant concepts that millennials are attracted to, the values that they look for in a business, and the type of marketing that can get through to this age group.
Restaurant Concepts That Millennials Love
The way to the millennial heart lies in two terms: fast casual and communal style dining. If you are not familiar with these terms it is time to study up if you want to keep up with restaurant trends!
Fast Casual Dining
Although millennials are still frequenting fast food and sit down restaurants at high rates, their preferred type of eatery is the fast casual restaurant. Think Chipotle, Five Guys, or Panera; fast casual is generally an eatery where you order at a counter, choose your own table, and then have the food brought out to you when it’s ready. Self-service drinks and self-bussed tables are usually associated with this style as well. Millennials like the convenience of this format along with the idea that they are getting food that is a step up from the drive through but without the price tag of a sit-down.
Communal Style Dining
Millennials enjoy the shared, social aspect of communal style dining. This restaurant concept is where customers share their tables with and sit next to other patrons. Sometimes this just means long tables spanning the dining room of a restaurant but it can also come in the form of cafeteria-like dining areas that multiple restaurants share. Eating out is a community activity for most millennials. Don’t be surprised if you sit down at a shared dining table and the 25-year-old next to you strikes up a conversation, it is all part of the experience.
Millennials Care About the Ethics of a Restaurant
The millennial customer is a different breed altogether than their parents, and even their parent’s parents. They have come up in a world of rampant obesity and pesticide laden foods, and not surprisingly, have come to the conclusion that it is not for them. An individual of this demographic is concerned now more than ever with eating food that is fresh, organic, and ethically grown.
Local, Fresh, Organic
A great way to cater to this millennial preference is to convert your ingredients to local and organic sources wherever possible. For those dishes you are able to source locally, let your eaters know! A line included on the menu of what local farm the chicken comes from is a huge bonus to ethical sourcing minded customers. Even a section like “seasonal eats” can clue your customer in on the fact that you are sourcing locally and not importing strawberries from across the world in the dead of winter.
Attract Millennials With Your Online Presence
The bulk of modern marketing has transitioned over to online channels for good reason. Your reach is far, paid advertising costs are relatively low, and organic advertising is free.
60% of millennials like to follow brands on social media, 56% are willing to share their location on social media when eating out, and to top it all off, 68% will ask a friend for recommendations before picking a spot to eat. Are you sensing a flow here? If you are followed and shared by millennials on social media you are way more likely to attract the patronage of their friends, too.
Make Information About Your Restaurant Available Online
Social media is not the only piece to the puzzle though, a well-made website for your establishment is vital as well. Millennials want to be able to check out your menu and get a feel for what type of restaurant you have before they visit. Established profiles on user review websites like Yelp are essential as well. It all ties back to wanting to know where their friends eat; if others seem to like your restaurant then a millennial is much more comfortable to check it out as well.
The evidence is difficult to ignore. The millennial customer is here and they have some very serious spending power to back them up. For restaurant owners it is time to either get on board with their preferences or get left in the dust!