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What Are Millennials Starving for (Other Than Your Attention)?

millennials eating pizza

Millennials make up the largest population group in the United States at 80 million people; the effects of this generation’s immense buying power can be experienced throughout the food and beverage industry. Millennials, born between 1981 and 2000, are tech-savvy multitaskers who communicate on an average of 2.5 social networks.

With a purchasing power of $600 billion per year, Millennial consumers are not only financially powerful, but as the most culturally diverse generation in history, their influence also transcends traditional market boundaries. Attracting this group to your restaurant, store or hotel could mean big bucks in customer lifetime value. These customers are not only 65 percent more likely to dine out with friends and coworkers, they’re also more likely to reward brands with loyalty: 70 percent return to the brands they love. Just don’t get on their bad side because, although Millennial enthusiasts are twice as likely to return, if they aren’t satisfied on the first visit, they’re twice as likely not to return. And when you pair that with the fact that 55 percent of Millennials share bad experiences online – your business can’t afford to fall out of favor with this highly connected and influential group.

So what turns them on? The social intelligence experts at newBrandAnalytics researched the stated dining preferences of Millennials across popular social media sites such as Yelp, Open Table, Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter and Google Reviews to pinpoint trending menu items, dining out frequency, preferred restaurant service style, social marketing influences and intent to return. We also checked in with a few restaurant operators to see what drives loyalty at their locations. Here’s what we found motivates this unique group.

Food Preferences

Millennials lean towards fast casual brands that promote social responsibility and authenticity such as Chipotle and the grab-and-go section at Whole Foods. Both of these brands offer personalized deals that make customers feel special and understood. These brand examples illustrate that Millennials value quality food over great service, and that they’re happy to pay extra for a meal that is not mass-produced.

Compared to past generations, Millennials are self-proclaimed foodies who prefer intense, ethnic fusion flavors incorporating Asian, Spanish, Mediterranean and other global influences (how else can you explain the Sriracha phenomena?). We uncovered these same global flavor trends in everything from buzz-worthy cocktails such as lychee martinis, ginger-infused vodka sodas and guava mojitos, to trendy appetizers including charcuterie, ceviche and burrata.

The ability to customize one’s order with healthy, locally sourced ingredients also generates very positive social buzz. Just ask Penelope Crocker, Director of Restaurant Marketing Strategy of Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, who told newBrandAnalytics that the key to drawing in Millennials with these kinds of promotions is to clearly communicate which products on your menu are organic and where they’re sourced from.

Dining Style

Millennials are very family-centric; in fact, when asked in a BBDO study ‘what defines you most,’ nearly half of the respondents answered ‘family’. It’s no surprise that family-friendly staples, McDonald’s and Olive Garden, were the brands most recently visited by respondents at 89 percent and 69 percent, respectively. So, even though Millennials enjoy more exotic flavor combinations, they still tend to eat fast food between one and four times per week, often with their families.

Dining atmospheres that give off a community-like vibe resonate with this group, who grew up working on laptops in the corner Starbucks. Jeremy Morgan, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Consumer Insights for Smashburger, knows that hosting local events and inviting social influencers to launch new locations drives loyalty. Offering free WiFi to customers can also help foster that feeling of connectedness inside your restaurant. (Plus, it encourages guests to tag your restaurant’s location in their social media posts.)

What’s Next?

As Millennials continue to enter the struggling job market, they’re the most overeducated and underemployed group in recent history, with 63 percent currently holding a bachelor’s degree but working in jobs that don’t necessarily require one. These retail and hospitality jobs that used to be filled by high school graduates are now being filled with college graduates, who are using that income to pay rent until they land a position in their chosen profession. By 2025, Millennials will comprise 36 percent of the workforce, so if you’re a hotel or restaurant operator, knowing what attracts Millennials to your brand might also give you a leg up when trying to retain your best employees. 

(Millennials / shutterstock)

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