Are you targeting Millennial customers for your restaurant? If not, you may want to reconsider. While they’re not yet at their peak earning power since they’re just starting out in the workplace, Millennials are valuable restaurant customers simply by virtue of the fact they’re likely to eat out more often than many other demographics. (Some 41 percent of Millennials buy food away from home at least twice weekly, compared to 38 percent of Gen Xers and 37 percent of Baby Boomers.)
So how can you attract Millennials, and what are they looking for when they do eat out? A study by Technomic reported in FSR magazine has some insights.
Fun. Millennials see restaurants as gathering places and are more likely to visit in groups (20 percent of their out-of-home meals are with friends, according to Datassentials stats cited in the article). Make your restaurant inviting as a place for groups of friends to hang and linger in a fun environment.
Alcohol. Part of the fun is alcohol, at least for Millennials. Twenty percent of them say the availability of alcoholic beverages matters to their choice of a restaurant. Just 12 percent of Gen Xers and 10 percent of Baby Boomers say the same. Keep your alcoholic options fresh by adding popular items like craft beers or artisanal cocktails if it fits your theme.
Affordability. Some 40 percent of Millennials say price is extremely important when eating out, according to Datassentials research. That’s more than any other age group. Keep in mind this group is still starting out in their earning power, so they have limited discretionary income. Small plates, happy hours or a la carte options can be a way to keep prices down for them.
Customization. Millennials like to have it “their way.” Some 21 percent say they prefer restaurants that let them customize a meal. Only 16 percent of Gen Xers and 15 percent of Boomers care about this. Consider including wording on your menu that substitutions are not a problem, or for a more casual restaurant, offer a range of choices like a basic burrito with options to add in shrimp, chicken, pork or beef. (Bonus: Customizing makes it easier to upsell different options.)
Adventure. Speaking of menu items, make yours unusual if you want to attract Millennials. For this age group, it’s important to discover the “next big thing” and tell their friends about unique tastes that no one else they know has tried yet. This age group is also less conscious of health issues than older consumers, since their metabolisms are still running high, so you can get crazy with bacon and other high-calorie add-ons.
Social-savvy. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that social media is key to how Millennials decide where to eat out. Technomic says 59 percent of Millennials check online menus often or very often; nearly 2 in 10 do so on a mobile device. Make sure your restaurant has a presence on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as on local search engine and review sites like Local.com and Yelp.
Keep in mind, this social sharing works both ways. One-fourth of Millennials saying they are likely to recommend food and restaurants to their friends. That means if they’re happy with your restaurant, they’ll spread the word—and that makes them all the more valuable as customers.
Image by Flickr user Rob Ireton (Creative Commons)