There’s no denying that operators in all segments of the restaurant industry must adapt their business practices to cater to each demographic group, from baby boomers to Generation Z. However, appealing to millennials, consumers born between 1981 and 1997, is especially important given their buying power which, according to Forbes, now totals more than $200 billion. To attract and retain millennials’ business before these consumers become too set in their ways, restaurant industry players must give them what they want.
Socially responsible brands and food. Millennials are more likely to patronize restaurants that conduct business in a sustainable and ethical way. Some examples are donating a portion of sales or untouched food to feed the hungry, hiring employees who might not otherwise easily find a job in the restaurant industry, or purchasing locally grown organic produce or ingredients.
When it comes to social responsibility and food, millennials tend to favor restaurants whose ingredient purchasing practices tend toward humane practices, sustainability, and environmental friendliness. These means gravitating toward organic ingredients, as well as such products as eggs from cage-free hens, antibiotic-free, hormone-free meat and poultry, grass-fed meat, and locally sourced ingredients whose movement through the supply chain does not create a large environmental footprint.
Millennials are much more likely to patronize a restaurant whose website includes online ordering options and a menu they can easily review from mobile devices. They also look for reviews of restaurants online and check prices before deciding to dine there. Make sure your website includes the information and order capabilities millennials are looking for to capture their business.
Restaurateurs also can leverage social media to keep Millennial audiences informed and up-to-date with the latest menu items, promotions and social causes. Social media will also benefit restaurateurs in the form of user generated content. Simply create a hashtag and invite your patrons to participate in submitting pictures of their favorite dish in order to receive a discount on their next meal. Millennials will do your branding work for you.
Restaurant based smartphone applications such as the type used by Chipotle, Starbucks, or Panera are extremely popular among Millennials. Millennials, well-known for their attachments to their smartphones, can simply place an order and rack their loyalty points or receive special offers through the apps on their phones.
Novelty and diversity. New ideas, creativity, innovative design, and moving graphics are all highly attractive to members of the millennial generation. You may want to experiment with new seating patterns,and menu graphics that better appeal to millennials. Indulging this generation’s love of trying new things should be indulged as well, by serving free samples of recent and imminent additions to restaurants’ menus.
Community orientation. Restaurants with a community orientation are often millennials’ establishments of choice. Consider participating in or supplying food for community events, charities, or local familes in need. You can also become active in the community through sponsorship of local events or teams.
By some accounts, the millennial generation not only packs enormous purchasing power; it is also more than 80 million consumers strong and is the most influential generation since the baby boomers. Consequently, success in the restaurant industry is and will continue to be heavily dependent upon whether operators give millennials what they want — on their menus, within communication channels, and throughout all aspects of operation.