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How Restaurants Can Cater To Gen Y

Dining Out

Millennials may be the most social generation, but due to the difficult economy, they’re dining out less. According to the NPD Group, 18-34-year-olds are eating at restaurants about once a week less than young people did in 2007, which has left many restaurants worried about how to target young consumers. However, several companies have accepted this challenge and are adopting approaches to meet Millennials’ tastes, as well as the current food trends. Take a look at their strategies below and our insights on how restaurants can reach Gen Y.

Make Dining A Social Activity

Several months ago, Applebee’s announced that it will expand its nightlife and entertainment offerings in an effort to reach Millennials. The family-friendly chain will transform into “Club Applebee’s” after 10pm with half-priced drinks, dance music, karaoke, “Girls Night Out” events, and more lasting until 2am. By making the dining experience a fun event that they’d want to attend with their friends, restaurants can capture Millennials’ attention.

Moreover, Darden Restaurants, which owns chains including Olive Garden and Red Lobster, recently announced that it’s focusing on a next generation of restaurants including Capital Grille, Seasons 52, and Yard House. These restaurants offer a wide selection of drinks, live music, and unique flavors to appeal to young adults.

Additionally, by making the setting of a restaurant more social with lounges for example, and offering more dishes that can be shared, eateries can place emphasis on the social experience, which young people crave.

Tell Your Brand’s Story

In general, Millennials care about companies with a clear message and ones that they can form an emotional connection with. This is especially the case with restaurants since consumers of all ages want to know where the food they’re eating comes from, how it’s made, and what their peers think of the brand. By making your restaurants’ values clear, your company will likely be more meaningful to Millennials.

For example, Chiptole’s award-winning advertisement “Back to the Start” makes it clear that the company uses sustainable farming methods and the best quality ingredients in the food it serves. The animated ad is informative in telling the story of the brand, and is also emotional and entertaining. Millennials appreciate knowing this information and they’ll pass it on to the peers.

Offer Unique Flavors

Gen Y is adventurous when it comes to eating, which ties back to them viewing dining as a social experience where they want to Instagram their food. They’re eager to try interesting flavors, which is why consumer packaged goods brands including Campbell’s Soup are offering new flavors to appeal to Millennials. They’re also the most ethnically diverse generation and they want to eat dishes that reflect this. Restaurants should take their habits and preferences into account by constantly offering interesting, seasonal flavors that they’ll want to try and recommend to their friends. In fact, according to Ypulse research among 1,200 13-34-year olds, 65% of Millennials say when they find food they like, they typically tell others about it.

Get Consumers’ Input

Give the people who are eating your food a say in your company, specifically through crowdsourcing. Domino’s for example asked fans to help design “the ultimate pizza delivery vehicle” and in turn, be a part of the future of the company. Millennials will be more invested in your brand if they’re asked to give their input in the creation of its products. Moreover, brands should ask consumers for suggestions on future food. Lay’s did this in asking fans to help choose a new chip flavor, which other fans and celebrity judges could vote on. 

Go Mobile

Millennials have an on-the-go lifestyle, which is part of the reason why food trucks appeal to them. They can try different food at a low cost and make a social experience or activity out of eating. Nearly half (47%) of Millennials have eaten at a food truck and 21% have attended a food festival, which is high considering that the trend is still relatively new. Restaurants and consumer packaged goods companies of all types are taking note of this trend. Nutella for example launched a “Breakfast Tour” several months ago and traveled across the country offering free samples of its spread. This method helps get the word out about a brand, a new meal, or product, by creating an in-person experience.

Reward Consumers

It’s no secret that Millennials have limited funds and they want to find the best deals. Restaurants should recognize this and offer occasional rewards to reach Millennials. This can come in the form of discounts, specials, or even loyalty cards, which 92% of Millennials say are valuable. One Millennial recently told us, marketers should offer “giveaways or good deals on special days. For example, Chipotle gave $2 burritos to people who showed up in costumes on Halloween. I think this is very effective with my generation.” This further proves that young people seek ways to save and they want food brands to reach them in creative ways.

Pay Attention To Food Trends

This may sound simple, but to reach Millennials, restaurants should be aware of what’s trending. Brunch is the next big thing since it’s an opportunity to socialize and have fun drinks. This may be nothing new in cities, but Millennials across the country are interested in this meal with 49% saying they’ve had brunch at least once in the past six months. They’re also increasingly interested in eating healthy with organic and local foods becoming a key part of their diet.