What the next generation demands from restaurants.

Millennials are gaining more and more purchasing power, which is good news for restaurants, since this demographic is dining out 20% more than any other generation. In fact 53% of this group goes out to eat once a week, compared with 43% of the general population. In fact, Chris Muller, dean of Boston University’s School of Hotel Administration, once said that in five years Millennials would surpass Baby Boomers as the largest users of restaurants in the United States. That was five years ago. As their spending power increases in the coming years, you want to have loyalty already established among these consumers.

1. Who are Millennials?

Age 18-34, Millennials are often described as technologically savvy, highly connected and socially aware. All of these attributes need to be considered when creating a unique dining experience for these individuals. Keep reading to learn insights and new ideas that’ll help you be successful when fighting it out to capture your share of Millennials’ heart and wallets.

2. Customizable Meals

In addition to the characteristics mentioned above, millennials are also described as “thrill seekers”, and “restaurant explorers” and “experientialists” according to Datassential. In embarking on these culinary quests, this generation seeks customization in their meals. NDR explains, “they want flavor-forward options with the ability to customize their adventure, adding ingredients curated by their individual tastes.” In fact, 21% of the Millennials surveyed said they are drawn to restaurants that offer the ability to customize a meal; while it was important to only 16 percent of Gen Xers (34-54) and 15% of Boomers (55+).

What does this look like?

It could be as simple as introducing mix and match combination options of current entrees and sides or adding new shareable appetizers. Allowing Millennials to create a personalized, interactive dining experience will lead to higher levels of satisfaction and enhanced dining experiences.

3. Dining out is a Social Activity

The way generations view going out to eat is very different. While older generations viewed restaurants as a way to escape dull realities of the day, millennials use it as something far different. For them, it’s an extension of their social calendar. Therefore the ambiance should be inviting and open for socializing is very important. Often what this manifests itself in is seating configurations. A popular trend right now is adding communal tables, whether that’s in the bar area or the main restaurant.

With this in mind, think about how you can curate fun events that will add to their active social calendars. Several restaurants have found major success in hosting weekly trivia nights or murder mystery dinners on a regular or rotating basis.

4. Leverage technology

It’s no secret everyone today is glued to their phones. This is especially true of millennials. Think about it, this group has grown up on technology and social media. “It is an integral part of their lifestyle. In other words, they don’t know life without computers or even the Internet.” explains Jim Matorin, founder of SMARTMARKETING, a food marketing and consulting firm. Many restaurants are tapping into this obsessive technological need by providing free Wifi or charging stations at booths and tables. Not only does this provide major value to customers, it can also bring your restaurant social benefits. For example, to log onto the wifi you can drive users to your social media pages to share photos with friends and of their food in the restaurant in real time.

foodstagram posts using Instagram

5. Make it worth talking about

People love to share they got Boston’s best ice cream sandwich or went to the coolest hidden gem in a new neighborhood. The impact of social media has only amplified this desire to share these experiences. Sara Monnette, director of consumer research at foodservice research firm Technomic, explains, “Because of their online presence and social media [lifestyle], they like to talk about the experiences that they’re having—not only for their own benefit, satisfying their own taste buds, or their need to be adventurous and try something new, but also a part of that social inclusion, that if they go to a new restaurant and try the newest burger, then they can talk about it and share it with their network.”

6. Be findable

59% of Millennials say they review menus online often or very often, and 19% do so using a mobile device. When this group hears about a new restaurant, their first instinct is to Google it. Having a presence on social media and a website with a strong user experience creates a positive first impression and makes prospective guests far more likely to walk through the door.

7. Why it all matters

The Millennial generation spending more money and time at restaurants than any other generation. They also have massive social networks at their fingertips, meaning if you appeal to them, you have a strong chance of benefiting from their word of mouth posts on social media. To be successful think about how you can create a distinct and memorable experience that utilizes technology and allows Millennials socialize.

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Morgan is a restaurant veteran based in Providence. For nearly a decade, she has worked in the restaurant industry in server and bartender roles. As a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, Morgan has pursued her passion of exploring the intersection of hospitality, technology and of course, delicious food. Her favorite travel buddies are meal sharers who enjoy being adventurous and trying something different.