Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Talkin' 'bout my generation

Meet the “millennials.” They care about where that chicken laid those eggs.

Millennial diners think beyond taste when spending their
restaurant dollars.
There is a new crop of customers in town and they are a demanding lot. These diners are socially conscious, environmentally aware and they appreciate a good meal—made from locally-sourced ingredients, of course. They may not be rich, but they dine out more than any other age group. Meet the “Millennials.”

Born roughly between 1978 and 1994, a member of the Millennial generation ranges between a high school senior about to head off to college to young professional, out of school with a career, just starting a family. Their parents and grandparents are Baby Boomers, 78 million of which will begin to retire in droves in the next 15 to 20 years.

While Millennials may not have a large amount of disposable income, they eat out far more than generations before them. They were raised on Chicken McNuggets and Subway sandwiches; restaurant meals after church on Sundays. Fifty years ago, for the average American, restaurants were for special occasions, maybe two or three times a year. Now, according to the National Restaurant Association, people under the age of 25 spend nearly 48 percent of their food budgets eating away from home.

Millennials care about more than just how the food tastes. They are seeking to patronize businesses that care about the world at large. Restaurants can attract these diners by honing in on three specific brand metrics*:
  • Social responsibility-Is the restaurant's practices good for the environment? For its employees?
  • Food quality-After taste is considered, a millennial diner will ask, Where is the food coming from? Is it local/sustainable? Is it organic? Were the animals treated in a humane way when they are alive? They gravitate to terms like grass-fed beef and cage-free eggs.
  • Community involvement-Does the restaurant give back to the community? Are they involved with local charities?
All three of these things should be considered when trying to attract the Millennial diner. They are the future of restaurants—both its employees and its customers.

Meet the Millennials
There are many, many restaurants across the state incorporating these three principles already. We can’t go to a restaurant (from a neighborhood place to a chain) that isn’t touting local ingredients. This is something Louisiana has been doing well before it was trendy.

As for community service, restaurateurs are some of the most philanthropic people out there, always giving back to their communities. (Read stories on Leah Chase and Greg Reggio who were both recently honored nationally.) If these practices are publicized to Millennials, they will keep coming back.

*Brand metrics sourced from Chicago-based industry consultant Technomic.

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