How the Millennial Generation is Changing Restaurants

Millennial Dining Trends

••• Flickr via Shakey 1694

As you create your restaurant menu, marketing plan, or social media campaign, be aware that the Millennial generation is now the largest general group in the United State, with over 80 million people aged 18-34. Poised to surpass Baby Boomers in their buying power, Millennial already spend $247 billion on dining out. However, Millennia’s dining preferences differ from that of Baby Boomers or Gen X-ers. When it comes to their food, Millennial are all about choice, health, and adventure. All of which they expect to have at an affordable price.  This new type of dining preference has helped spur enormous growth in the fast casual sector, with chains like Chipotle and Panera Bread benefitting from the younger generations tastes and habits. Millennial have also changed the way restaurants market to customers.  Always plugged in, Millennial want to feel connected to their peers and to the businesses they frequent, therefore social media is essential to reaching Millennial. Millennial also have different expectations of the restaurant industry in terms of environmental responsibility. They expect businesses to give back, beyond just recycling – they are looking for a sense of community. There are many ways to cater to the Millennial dining trends, including customized menus, ethnic and globally inspired ingredients and concepts built around communal dining.

The Millennial Outnumber Baby Boomers

For a long time, economic spending was led by the Baby Boomer generation, those born right after WWII, up until the early Sixties.  Also known as Generation Y, Millennial are those born between the later Seventies through the later Nineties. Now in their late teens to early thirties, the Millennial generation is the largest demographic in the United States, surpassing the Baby Boomers both in numbers and buying power.  With nearly 80 million people, the Millennial generation is poised to shape American culture in new ways.  Many restaurants who have previously catered to the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers need to start shifting their menus and businesses practices to attract the next generation of customers. 

Millennial Are Looking for Food Adventures

For restaurants, The Millennial represent a new challenge, not only in what food is being served on menus, but how it is served.  According to the report Understanding Millennial, 55% of Millennial like communal dining, while 40% order something different every time they eat out.  30% seek organic food (compared to 21% of Gen X and 15% of Boomers) and 80% want to know where their food is coming from.  Restaurants who can tell the story of their menu items, whether local or global, will impress Millennial. 

Healthy Food is an Expectation

The days of all-you-can eat buffets have long since passed. There is increasing evidence to show that the American consumer is more concerned with healthy eating, than ever before.  In it’s 2013 National Household Survey, the National Restaurant Association reports that 81% of adults polled thought there were more healthy options available on restaurant menus than there were two years ago.  72% decided they were more likely to visit a restaurant that offers healthy menu items, and women especially tried to eat healthy when dining out – 75% of women versus 66 % of men. Millennial expect healthy choices whether they go to a sit down restaurant or a food truck.

Community is Important to the Millennial

Millennial report that they like community events, support them.  According to marketing to Millennials: Deciphering the Enigma, 76% believe they can make a difference in the world and 63% will likely do business with a socially responsible company. This goes beyond being a “green restaurant.”  Environmentally green steps that used to impress customers, like recyclable flatware, biodegradable takeout containers, don’t dazzle the Millennial generation. Recycling is an expectation.  What they want to know is how is your restaurant making the community a better place? Through support of local farms? Working with minorities to provide jobs? Supporting local charities and other community efforts? Millennial expect more from businesses. However, price is still important, with 35% of Millennial's say they would compromise their values (a little bit) for a good deal.


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2013 National Household Survey