When it comes to customer demographics, a lot of buzz surrounds attracting and building loyalty with millennials. If you’re a restaurant owner, it might interest you that a recent article in Nation’s Restaurant News cites dining rates of baby boomers and seniors increased in 2011, while those of younger adults declined because of the economy.
Restaurant owners using Upserve already have the advantage of a powerful demographics tool with which to process payments, and target and build loyalty at the same time. Attracting this demographic, or building loyalty if your data shows that seniors are already a large customer base, requires taking into consideration what their concerns are when choosing a place to dine out.
Seniors want smaller, simpler portions
According to NRN, this demographic is “most drawn to reasonable portions of simple, well-executed classics, as well as dishes that stir nostalgia and emphasize healthfulness and value.”
To be more specific, senior ?Betsy A. Riley tells us, “With age comes dietary restrictions, so more attention to those of us who need to have the sauce left off, etc., would help. So would more detailed info about ingredients in various dishes.”
Jean Blewett, from Riverside, California, emphatically says “Smaller portions – YES! Too many of the entrees are more than we want to eat.”
In fact, it’s such a rarity that restaurants make a smaller size available that some, like Nancy Schimmel of Berkeley, California, have skipped straight to asking for the children’s size: “I went to a gelato place and asked for the children’s portion and they said, ‘That’s only for under 12.’ I said, ‘I’m over 75. I should be able to get it too.’ They sold me one. Now they just call it a mini.”
Aside from offering more information about ingredients and reasonable portion sizes, consider adding more options á la carte – that is, half-portion-sized entrees and substitutions with special diets in mind. If your menu is already designed to give your guests the health-conscious information they are looking for, flaunt it!
The best way to let seniors know that your restaurant cares about their needs is by addressing them right on the menu, so they don’t have to ask!
Bennett’s Pure Food Bistro was listed in MSN’s Top Ten Heart-Healthiest Restaurants in the US where they note, “Practically everything on the comfort-food menu at this stylish neighborhood bistro is local, organic and seasonal.”
Good news for seniors looking for nostalgic dishes they can trust like crab cakes, mac and cheese and BBQ pork without chemically processed ingredients. The front page of Bennett’s website makes it abundantly clear what diners won’t find in their meals, ensuring a worry-free upscale experience for seniors.
Seniors want “adult time”
When dining out, Schimmel is clear on what is not part of an ideal evening: “Loudness. I routinely ask that the music be turned down so my friends and I can hear each other. They are usually nice about it, but not everybody thinks to ask, and in some restaurants the wait staff can’t even control it.”
Many seniors are looking for a more peaceful, intimate dining experience, and that is often interrupted by children.
“Love kids, hate bad parenting. I am not paying the cost to dine out to be disturbed by noisy (crying, screaming) or hyperactive children that are being asked to cope in environments not suited to them,” says Julie Auslander of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Some restaurants are going out of their way to offer separate seating for kids and seniors, and they’re getting recognition for making dining out easier for the two demographics.
So why is it also an excellent choice for seniors and adults looking for an entirely different experience? Wishbone has been mentioned on a shortlist of a growing adults-only trend by Travel + Leisure for having a separate adults-only dining room and bar.
Of course, not all restaurants have an environment that allows for separate rooms, but as Auslander suggests, “conscientious strategic seating would go a long way to help.” So even if your dining room is short on space, consider reserving some tables for customers without children and away from the speakers or kitchen noises.
With seniors, great service and some extra effort to be considerate can make a big difference in their decision to return to your restaurant. And contrary to popular belief, senior discounts weren’t even a factor in the responses from the seniors we talked with.
Dr. Gayle Carson, author of How to Be an S.O.B.: A Spunky Old Broad Who Kicks Butt, told us, “My way of eating is good food, reasonably priced. I don’t look for senior discounts or early birds, but don’t want to pay for average food in a fancy location, or fancy food in an OK location.”