Restaurant Marketing to Millennials (Who They Are And Why They Matter)

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As one generation of consumer replaces another, new spending habits, areas of interest, competencies and culinary behaviors emerge. Such is the case with the Millennial generation, which represents those born from 1980 to 2000, and follows on the heels of Generation X and the Baby Boomers before them. Here are some tips for restaurant marketing to Millennials.

Restaurant Marketing to Millennials: Facts About Gen Y

Raised on the internet and technologies of every stripe, these young adults can multitask in ways that make preceding generations sit up and take notice.

Sometimes known as Generation Y or Echo Boomers, there are about 82 million of them and they are more diverse than preceding generations with approximately 61% Caucasian, 17% Hispanic, 15% African-American, 3.4% Asian and 3.6% classified as “other.”

Already the largest generation, immigration is expected to boost the number of Echo Boomers to nearly 90 million by 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Research shows this group is 89% likely to switch brands to support a cause, if price and quality are equal, and that a whopping 74% pay attention to messages of companies deeply committed to a cause. Hello Starbucks. A majority of Millennials, 69%, goes so far as to consider a company’s social commitment when deciding where to shop.

Restaurant Marketing to Millennials: How Gen Y Dines Out

Millennials are heavy fast food users but also say they would pay more for local food, according to research firm, Mintel. The report says among young “Millennial” adults aged 18-24, post recession spending patterns are more encouraging than other groups, with 26% saying they are spending more money this year compared to 15% of all respondents.

When making decisions about dining out, Millennials, who have come of age during a worldwide recession, cite “To treat myself,” as the most powerful driver for restaurant visits, according to Mintel research.

“The search for experiences also leads younger adults to travel, making “on vacation” dining a more common dining driver for them,” Mintel reports.

Research also shows most late-night diners come from the Millennial generation, which is largely credited with the creation of the fourth daypart category as evidenced by Taco Bell’s “Fourth Meal” promotion last year.

The promotion, which proved wildly successful, suggests that other chains not courting the Millennials should probably do so before this group discovers the competition.

Restaurant Marketing to Millennials: Influence

And surprisingly when this group speaks, the family listens, as Millennials influence the spending habits of their families. This is likely a direct result of the “closeness” Echo Boomers feel towards family members.

Specifically Generation Y influences 81% of apparel purchases and 52% of car purchases. With sway like that no wonder foodservice is paying special attention to this increasingly dominant consumer.

Restaurant Marketing to Millennials: Staying Connected

Not surprisingly Millennials want to be connected 24/7 and are driving change in the way the world consumes media. A strong appetite for portable content has made this age group almost inseparable from a variety of network devices. Consequently only 1% of Millennials read newspapers on a regular basis.

Restaurant Marketing to Millennials: What’s Important to Them

Other interesting tidbits about Millennials include an overwhelming number of them, 84%, believe that getting a college degree is important, and 51% say it’s important to volunteer for community service.

In a survey of entering college students by the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study, the proportion of kids who said being wealthy was very important to them was 75% for Millennials while only 35% of them said it was “important to keep up to date with political affairs.”

And clearly Millennials like their cell phones, as 59% spend at least an hour a day talking on them. Savvy restaurateurs who are reaching out to this generation through cell phone marketing have figured this out, but some food service operators still have yet to crack the code.

Millennials would like to see more healthy items on menus and they regularly consider the nutritional information of their food choices, often checking out a restaurant’s website before dining.

Restaurant Marketing to Millennials: Gen Y at Work

When it comes to a first job Millennials have realistic expectations but once hired seek rapid advancement and work/life balance. The group also seeks meaningful work experiences and a nurturing work environment.

Millennials believe they can reach their goals, no matter how grand. They like the “rules” spelled out for them and they want those rules strictly enforced. Because this generation is always looking for the “best deal,” they are somewhat hesitant to embrace advertising because they think it adds to higher prices across the board. Not particularly brand loyal, Millennials are most definitely attracted to value pricing so they could easily switch from brand to brand depending on price.

Restaurant Marketing to Millennials: Alcohol Consumption

A Special Trends in Adult Beverage Report from Technomic research showed that Millennials exhibit a greater willingness to try new alcoholic drinks, which is driving an innovative surge in beverage creation on the culinary side. Full-service restaurateurs who have not introduced creative cocktails on their menus should consider innovating new offerings because Millennials also drink frequently.

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