Menuing to Millennials: What You Need to Know

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Millennials are coming! Learn how this age demo will soon be the source of most of your business. They have different habits and tastes than Boomers. Get ahead of the curve and be ready for this culture change.
Group of millennials with beverages at cafe and restaurant
©iStockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs

Now numbering more than 80 million people in America, this is the demographic that is eclipsing Baby Boomers in numbers and importance (in fact, they are projected to outnumber non-Millennials by 2030). And they’ll outspend them within five years, according to the new study “What Happens When Millennials Get the Wallet?

As the National Restaurant Association puts it, 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.

Lately there’s been one of those quizzes circulating around the internet that seeks to gauge How Millennial Are You? The fact that it’s part of the “Portrait of Generation Next” project out of the influential Pew Research Center makes it more than just a meme, however.

The quiz helps define that demographic cohort of Americans whose birth years range from the early ’80s through the early 2000s, depending upon who is doing the defining. And the trope that Generation Y (as it’s also known) consists of college graduates still living at home with their heads buried in Facebook is only part of the story.

  1. Millennials are inveterate foodies, and according to the “Culture of Millennials 2011” (PDF)report from The Hartman Group, they were born into a world of infinite choice where they have come to expect the unexpected in foods and beverages. They tend to eat impulsively, trying not to “really think about it too much...just eat whatever I want when I feel like it.” Unique and customizable menu concepts that may be shared are appealing to this group of young adults. They also eat as many as six times a day, including snacks, says FoodIQ.

Tip: It’s easy to provide customizable menu options with Nestlé Professional “action station” concepts. A station can be set up to provide either chef-attended or self-service International Soup & Noodle Bowls or wellness-oriented options, including gluten free and whole-grain items such as Stouffer’s® Chicken Fettuccine, Pasta Made with Whole Grains.

  1. Millennials are very trend conscious when it comes to restaurants, embracing all the latest “hotness” from communal tables to dining as entertainment, as pointed out in a recent article in Restaurant Hospitality. Any service or feature that emphasizes and enhances the experience is important to this group. As The Washington Post puts it: food isn’t just food at restaurants; it’s community.

Did You Know? Many restaurant brands are already engaging the next generation of diners by opening units in colleges.

  1. Millennials are huge consumers of content, spending as many as 18 hours a day plugged in, according to a recent Media Post blog item. This ranges from live TV and movies to social media, especially networking with their peers. Engagement tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube need to be part of every operator’s arsenal. The National Restaurant Association shares five more tips.

  2. Millennials care about the environment, according to MSNBC, citing a Clinton Global Initiative poll, and it’s also important to them that brands behave responsibly. BuzzTime suggests promoting menu items that are organic, natural, hormone-free or cruelty-free, and being active in local charity activities.

Did You Know? Millennial males prefer hamburgers for their late-night noshing, and the Nestlé Professional website includes a number of recipes for burgers, toppings, and condiments.

  1. Millennials eat out more (PDF) than any other demographic cohort, according to Technomic, purchasing 36% of their meals away from home, and they see restaurants as a place to socialize. This is true even as the group’s financial fortunes have deteriorated in the past few years due to the economy.

  2. Millennials are quick to embrace technology, reports Nielsen, especially the kind that makes their on-the-go lives more convenient—the reason so many companies, from McDonald’s to Aramark, are offering mobile apps and even online ordering.

  3. Like other generations before them, Millennials encompass two life phases, adults (who may be married, parents, and homeowners), and younger Millennials who are still relatively unencumbered—and they need to be marketed to accordingly, says Restaurant Business. For instance, Millennial parents appear to be more willing to spend money on family entertainment than non-Millennial parents.

  4. A recent Ad Age article pointed out that as Millennials become parents, they will hold brands to their values in ever-increasing numbers, pushing the need for corporate social responsibility, transparency, and more. In addition, many of these children-of-Millennials are likely to suffer from food allergies.

Get Started: Minor’s® provides a number of products that are gluten free, as well as recipes for customers who are avoiding gluten.

  1. Millennials are driving at least some of the demand for premium alcohol, including craft beer and premium spirits, says Technomic. However, “[they make] drink choices in restaurants and bars more on the basis of desiring a particular flavor experience or as the result of influencers such as the occasion, food being ordered, or promotions than due to loyalty to a particular type of drink,” says the research firm.

  2. By the same token, Millennials also want to eat healthier, according to QSR Web, citing data from Subway Restaurants and MTV, but find many challenges in doing so, from on-the-run lifestyles to taste preferences for foods that may not be so good for them. The 7-Eleven convenience-store chain, for one, is rebranding around the premise of making healthier eating more easy for this group.