Trendy, tech-driven & conscious: the Millennial dining experience

A message is sent through Facebook Messenger:

“Hey, do you have room for a group of 8 (max. 12), tonight around seven?”

Dutifully you respond and ask to confirm the reservation. A response follows in minutes:

“Grand! Quick question: do you serve vegan food?”

Seconds later another message, asking if you serve local craft beer:

“Couldn’t find it on your website, it’s not very mobile-friendly…”

Surprised by a barrage of questions like this? Meet the Millennial diner, currently one of the major market segments you could attract to your business. But who are these people and what do they want? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you all about them and their dining habits.

Who are these Millennials?

The age group born between 1976 and 1996 are called Millennials or Generation Y. By 2030, this generation will make up 75% of our workforce, but their impact on our world can already be felt. The Millennial vote during elections is able to tip the scales and when it comes to trends like veganism, health food and environmental awareness, they’re often at the forefront. More than their predecessors, Millennials are concerned about their identity and the world around them. They are adventurous, looking for new experiences and eager to join in the latest trends. That goes for their dining too, which they feel should be an experience and a social activity (unless they eat on the go).

Connected, conscious and convenient

Millennials are the first group of digital natives to come of age. That means they’re highly connected and rely on the Internet for information on products as well as restaurants. If you can’t be found online, you’re not on their map. And those pesky reviews on Google, Tripadvisor or Yelp, they read and write those.

More than any generation, Millennials are environmentally conscious. They value <sustainable> practices and prefer local, green and craft products. Food that is fresh and natural, preferably also healthy, is favoured and 42% of them would pay extra for it. Yet, Millennials are also highly susceptible to trends and novelties. 64% enjoy new flavours and 44% would like to see more ethnic choices in restaurants. Although they stick strongly to their conscious values, convenience and affordability often trump ideals in lives that are hectic and lived on the go. That means they often opt for fast and easy, preferably customised to their personal tastes. So how about a soy latte with caramel flavour, chocolate sprinkles and an extra shot of espresso on the go?

More interesting facts about Millennial diners:

  • Food matters to Millennials. In fact, 60% enjoy cooking (30 minutes is the max. though) and 52% would visit a food festival rather than a music festival.
  • Having grown up during the obesity crisis, 49% of Millennials feel they’re overweight and 50% try to lose weight. They are the biggest followers of the keto diet.
  • Millennials eat out more than any other generation (2.3% of their meals are in bars and restaurants) and buy more ready-made meals (7.5% of their budget).
  • Where Baby Boomers and Gen X diners use coupons for 8% of their spending, Millennials only apply these for 6%. They are very susceptible to in-store discounts, though.
  • Quality, fast service and affordable prices are the top priorities for this age group.
  • A stunning 66% of them prefer to eat at an outlet that is active on social media, and 70% feel a need to share positive or negative experiences online. Yet for food recommendations, 40% rely on word of mouth.
  • 70% of Millennial consumers would return to a brand they like and trust.

Serving up a Millennial dining experience

Adapting your service to Millennials may seem like a highly complex endeavour. A lot of the values Millennials uphold, apparently clash. For example, they love healthy food, but make up 51% of fast casual diners, according to Morgan Stanley Research. But meeting their requirements is not a matter of choosing sides; it’s about finding the middle road.

Offer convenience with customisable and straightforward dishes
Millennials love fast food, particularly when customised to their preferences. That does not mean dishes have to be overly complex, as one core ingredient can do the trick. Great example: Starbucks, an absolute Millennial favourite. Essentially, they serve a cup of coffee, but you can customise it to taste. Even healthy or vegan options are readily available, without compromising on flavour.

Provide options for healthy, conscious and green eaters
Alternative options matter to Millennials. So, if you can offer sweet potato fries as a choice in addition to the regulars, that’s a perfect custom option. Product information definitely scores points and some fast food restaurants have been scoring points there. From sharing the nutrition facts to communicating green initiatives, both add positive vibes. And guess what, all this info hasn’t deterred customers from indulging!

Technology and social engagement
Let’s face it, Millennials love new experiences and technology plays a big part in their lives, including when it comes to their dining choices. Social media engagement matters, but self-service technology in restaurants is also popular. A good example is Wahaca, which offers payment via Facebook Messenger. The Millennial crowd would also quickly warm to a client app that gamifies the dining experience.

Keep surprising your customers
Millennials want those new flavours and experiences. You can offer seasonal specials or novelties to keep them engaged. Don’t forget to promote them and stimulate social sharing. How about a sushirrito or a cro-nut?

Facilitate flexible eaters

Finally, your Millennial guests either want to eat on the go or sit down with their friends. Find a way to offer both! And since they love mixing up their mealtimes, don’t limit your menu to certain eating moments and day parts. All-day breakfast, why not?

And that’s how you grow into a Millennial favourite! More inspiration to help you break bread with Millennials? Find out about Instagrammable food or how Millennials compare to other generations.