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Understand Your Customers - Targeting Millennials

Millennials are a particularly valuable target market for restaurants. Millennials, loosely defined as the group of about 80 million young men and women who were born in the 80s and 90s, spend an estimated $78 billion in restaurants each year, and spend more of their income on food than any other generation. Now is when they are moving into their heaviest foodservice years. It’s the right time to reach out to them, but how are restaurants supposed to build a strong brand relationship with these high-spenders? Let’s discuss the distinct needs and desires that drive this segment and how restaurants can meet those expectations.

Reaching the Millennial generation is about tapping into a mindset more than an age group. In general, Millennials value creativity, innovation, and cutting-edge technology. They want to be defined by their passions, and are addicted to social media. They view dining as a social occasion, love fast food and snacking, and see themselves as living healthfully, although they often splurge, as well. This generation is more ethnically diverse than any other group, and are exposed to vast and numerous cultural influences and impressions. They are used to having a lot of options wherever they shop, so they’re interested in products and experiences that are different from the every day.

This offers a real opportunity for restaurant innovation. New products, new marketing campaigns, new promotions and new experiences feed the Millennial desire for novelty and change. Concepts that feature unusual ingredients or items have strong appeal. Taco Bell, for example, has introduced their newest creation, the Doritos Locos Taco, which is a taco shell made from nacho cheese Doritos. You can bet Millennials are eating it up. Give Millennials originality. Give them something that’s fresh, quirky, and cool.

And give them a social experience. Many brands don’t market to Millennials’ need for socialization as much as they should or could. It’s a huge driver for this generation. Food is not simply about satisfying hunger; it’s a part of their pop culture. Applebee’s has done an excellent job catering to Millennials’ desire to mingle and mix. They offer karaoke events, Ladies’ Nights, and “Game Time” where guests can catch college sports games. Their website states that, “There’s no better way to take in all the big tournament action than with great friends and great food at Applebee's.” Exactly what Millennials are looking for.

Along with this need to interact, Millennials are very strong users of social media. They are drawn to social conversations and community engagement, and they expect to be listened to and connected. Join their conversations. Listen to them and look for opportunities to respond. Use social media to create and participate in dialogues with Millennials. But don’t limit your conversation to be all about your brand. This generation, like any other, doesn’t like it when a company talks only about itself. Be on top of the newest technology, the newest social media craze, and ingratiate yourself into Millennials’ online experience. Be where they are, because they are telling you themselves what they want and how they view your brand.

Demonstrate your community-mindedness by doing sponsorships and getting involved with local groups. Millennials want to know that the businesses they frequent care about them and their communities. They don’t just judge you on what you provide to them when they are in your restaurant; their perceptions are based on everything you do and say.

Make a concerted effort to listen to and understand what this segment is looking for, and to meet their expectations. Your restaurant will reap the considerable benefits of Millennials’ loyalty: money, patronage, and word-of-mouth endorsements.

by:Eveleena Fults

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