How to Appeal to Millennial Diners

Millennials eat out at restaurants more than other generations, but they’re looking for something a little different.
millennial-diners
With a few tweaks to your menu and your brand, you can be attracting this vital demographic to your restaurant. (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Millennials aren’t afraid to bust open their wallets for an exciting or authentic restaurant experience, whether it involves adventuresome eating or cocktails from days of yore.

According to Forbes and the Food Institute, they spend 44 percent of their food budgets, or $2,921 per year, on dining in restaurants. They allocate more to eating out than do boomers, who spend 40 percent of their food dollars on it.

Millennials are also the biggest generation in United States history — so it pays to court these diners. NCR Silver talked to some top restaurant consultants to find out how to do it.

The food

adventurous

Millennials tend to be more adventurous with foods, and are willing to experiment with ethnic flavors. (Photo: rawf8/Shutterstock)

Millennials are daring when it comes to food and open to new and diverse flavors.

“They like experimenting more with ethnic flavors, so designing things that have an ethnic flair is helpful for restaurateurs in terms of attracting millennials,” said Steve Anderson, founder and managing partner of Matrix Restaurant Consulting.

Related: Restaurant Owners: 5 Things to Know for Success in 2017

Rustic Root, a San Diego-based restaurant popular with millennials, serves ethnic dishes like sticky pork belly with pickled daikon, the traditional Korean dish bibimbap and ground bison meatballs. “Millennials are absolutely more adventurous,” said Kenny Lovi, VP of Restaurant Operations at RMD Group, which owns the restaurant. “They are willing to try something new, especially when it comes to game. We’ve done elk and bison.”

Millennials also want to know where their food came from and how it was made. “I find them being very socially responsible,” said Anderson. “Food should be organic, sustainable, local and ethically sourced.”

The drinks

According to Lovi, millennials love craft cocktails, especially pre-prohibition ones that are made classically or with a new twist. Rustic Root serves the Ramos Gin Fizz with bitters and egg.

Clark Wolf, a restaurant consultant for Clark Wolf Company, said classic cocktails come back into style because they are new to millennials. Instead of pre-mixed drinks, this crowd prefers the real thing. “Sometimes millennials love every fruit and herb and leaf crushed and squeezed and put into their freshly made cocktail.”

The atmosphere

In general, millennials value authentic over fancy. “They are looking for an inviting and comfortable ambience,” said Anderson. “They are not looking for grandiose, big steakhouse experiences that feel formal and expensive. They want something much more informal and inviting.”

David Kincheloe

David Kincheloe, president of National Restaurant Consultants, suggests using clean lines and minimalism to attract millennial customers. (Photo: David Kincheloe)

David Kincheloe, president of National Restaurant Consultants, advised sticking with clean lines and minimalism. “If it looks like a clean design, they are going to feel comfortable in this type of environment.”

Millennials also prefer naturalism, according to Wolf. “They like natural materials that are reclaimed,” he said. “It’s not real kitschy. They want to feel like they are someplace real.”

The digital presence

Millennials do their research online before setting foot into a restaurant, which is why a strong digital presence is important. “Millennials will go online and look at reviews,” said Anderson. “You want to be on top of your game, making sure you are getting good reviews and updating Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and all the social media and digital avenues. You need to keep them up to date and relevant.”

Focus on your Yelp reviews as well. These may convert more users than your Facebook page.

Related: Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing to Millennials

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