The idea of millennials “killing off” certain industries has been repeated to the point that it’s almost become more a punchline rather than a concern, but for many restaurant owners, there’s a serious element here. Several chain casual restaurants are reporting lower sales numbers as this new generation becomes a larger and larger part of the people who are spending money to eat out. In fact, in one letter, Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith flat out blamed new preferences for sagging sales.
While every business would love to have a product that’s evergreen, the fact of the matter is that adaptation is a part of success. In fact, it’s been proven that the latest generation of restaurant patrons actually prefers eating out more than their predecessors. The key is knowing what their new values are.
The Restaurant Patron of Tomorrow and Their Interests
The millennial definition has been stretched out a lot over the years, but for the sake of this conversation, we’re going to side with a U.S. Department of Agriculture reports range. The recent report defines millennials as people born anywhere between 1981 and the mid-2000s. Just from that alone, we can infer a lot of different things. A lot of people in this age group fall under the “young professionals” category. They’re old enough to have jobs and bring own their income, but many of them aren’t tied down by the financial responsibilities of a family yet. However, between a busy job and a social life, there may not be that much time to actually cook.
On paper, this sounds great for restaurants. Indeed, millennials eat 2.3% of their meals in restaurants or bars, more than any other age group. "At each income level, millennials spend the highest shares of their budgets on prepared foods, sugar and sweets, and pasta, and the least to grains—arguably the least processed of the processed foods," noted some Bernstein analysts in the way of a survey they performed. However, while convenience is a premium, that’s not all that millennials are looking for.
One major issue that conventional restaurants are dealing with, especially chains, is that millennials are more likely to be interested in local establishments. There are a lot of different reasons for this. Part of this is a growing interest in where food is coming from, along with a greater emphasis on quality-sourced products. For chains, who have been focusing for years on emphasising taste and sometimes portion size, they’re giving the wrong impression. This doesn’t mean that millennials aren’t interested in a bargain every now and then. However, the preference is more towards good, healthy food at reasonable prices.
Another thing that’s changing up, along with a desire for transparency and healthy food, is a growing amount of adventurousness. Ethnic food and unique dietary options are growing in popularity among the younger population, which is why you may be seeing more avant-garde options in restaurants and other service establishments like food trucks.
Appealing To The Restaurant Patron of Tomorrow
So, at this point, we’ve successfully established a few key interests of the modern restaurant patron:
- Places convenience at a premium
- Likes to save, but is more interested in quality, healthy food than anything else
- Not afraid to try new cuisine and menu items
- Likes the idea of supporting local businesses
These are some great action points to not only changing your business model, but also your marketing. For example, a major way to drum up positive attention for your business is to get involved in your community. This can take a lot of different forms, from supporting a local cause and publicising it, to making an appearance at a local event and offering some food samples. The key is not only to raise your profile, but create positive associations.
In addition, when making marketing materials or even writing up your menus, make sure to highlight where different foods are coming from. For example, do you use a local farm to source meat or eggs? Let your guests know. This helps to build up the consumer confidence, the same way that an “all-you-can-eat” promotion may have done in the past.
In addition, there’s a growing interest for millennials to try and turn eating out into a social event. Not only does this mean coming with large groups, but this can mean taking pictures of themselves and their food. Encourage this by being active on social media, and even reposting some of these images and interacting with customers on these platforms. Showing off guests having a fun is a clear beacon to everyone that your restaurant not only has great food, but a great atmosphere.
Another important thing to do is to try and integrate new technology whenever available, especially when it comes to convenience. Ideally, trying to use platforms that allow customers to book their tables online or pay at a table kiosk rather than using a check not only cuts down on time, it may also help with some of your overhead costs.
When it comes to reaching an audience, any audience, you need to make sure that you use a multi-pronged approach. It’s not enough to just make changes to your menu, layout, or service, you need to effectively communicate that you’ve done so, ideally using the tools and platforms that they do. For the younger audience that is bolstering a lot of restaurants, for example, mobile devices are the key nexus of information. This isn’t just for learning about restaurants, but reading reviews, menus, and even putting in delivery orders.
With this in mind, your restaurant’s digital presence needs to be on-point to stand a chance. Working with Blue Beetle is a perfect match. With our expertise in digital marketing, your restaurant will have the tools and presence to appeal to tomorrow’s restaurant patrons, whether you are just starting out or a veteran business wanting to stay around.