Millennials. They're all we hear about these days. With their superfood salads and social media obsessions they've forced many pubs to reconsider what they've been doing for years. But what about the older generation?

 

With the over-50s holding more than 80 per cent of the UK's wealth you can't afford to let them feel left behind.

And how do you appeal to the next generation of customers without alienating those who have been with you since long before food became street or beer became craft? Here's why the older generation should never be overlooked.

 

So who are the baby boomers?

Baby boomers, silver surfers or whatever phrase you choose to use. We are talking about the generation born after the Second World War, who are now aged somewhere between 50 and 70.

Commonly perceived as the lucky heirs to an era when Britons had "never had it so good", they make up a big chunk of the population. By 2033 a quarter of people in the UK will be aged over 65. Pair that with the fact that life expectancy for men and women aged 65 is stretching beyond 20 years (Office for National Statistics) and you can quickly see why businesses need to treat them with respect.

 

Where are they?
Well, everywhere, obviously, but the further you get out from the major cities the more you will find and the more likely it is they will be vital to your business.
Victoria MacDonald (below), award-winning licensee at the Cellar House in Norfolk, explains: "The average age in Norfolk is a lot different from metropolitan areas and here in Cringleford is no exception.

"It is important for us to cater for the baby boomers as much as anybody else, especially as they come through the door at all times of day."

 

 

Do they go still go out?
Hell yeah, as no baby boomer said, ever. These are the original party people and they show no signs of stopping. They might not spend quite as much on a night out as Generation X (those in their thirties and forties) but according to night-time operator The Deltic Group's latest Night Index they spend more of their leisure money at the pub than at bars, clubs or the cinema.

Deltic Group chief Peter Marks says: "Our core market is 18 to 21-year-olds. However, operators should not overlook the importance of baby boomers with their high spending power."

That's backed up by research by CGA Strategy. Its quarterly BrandTrack survey of 5,000 people shows two in three baby boomers are "actively engaged in the on-trade". Of those there's a bias towards men — a 70/30 split. Baby boomers are also slightly more likely than the rest of the population to prefer independent pubs.

 

 Party People: Folks enjoying a night out at The Cellar House

 

So they've got cash then?
Too ruddy right they do. The over-50s hold more than 80 per cent of the UK's wealth and half of them are confident of leaving behind £500,000 in inheritance, according to The Centre for Policy on Ageing.

But while they've got it, you'll have to put some effort in to get a share.

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) Future Shock Report shows that the over-55s account for just one in four eating and drinking out occasions. However, according to CGA 24 per cent of baby boomers go out for a drink at least once a week.

It's also well worth remembering that they place emphasis on good service and high-quality products.

ALMR chief Kate Nicholls explains: "The Future Shock Report shows over-55s value food quality and hygiene, so food-led pubs and restaurants have an opportunity to provide quality and cultivate an older customer base."

Victoria at The Cellar House agrees: "They are less likely to go for the house wines and will choose the New Zealand Sauvignon or a Rioja. They like quality, being looked after and you knowing their names."

Other things Victoria has done to keep her older customers happy include removing TV screens and ensuring there is plenty of play equipment — not for them, but for the grandchildren who will often be in tow.

 

Is food a factor?
As it is for most customers, food is now a serious consideration for the older generation when they go out.

Mintel's Lifestyles of the Over-55s report indicates that 45 per cent of people aged between 55 and 64 like to eat out at new pubs and restaurants. The same percentage like to try new dishes. This indicates it is not just younger customers driving changes on pub menus. However, after the age of 65 customers are generally less adventurous with their food choices.

Only 18 per cent of those aged over 55 said they didn't worry about how healthy their diet was, indicating that millennials are far from being the only ones looking at calorific content and the like.

 

 

So do pubs need to make radical changes?
Let's get one thing straight — each generational group is as diverse as the next. So while your millennials are not all health freaks, the baby-boomers are not all old-timers averse to change.

Put it this way — 88 per cent of them use the internet, so we are not talking about old men propping up the bar who are unwilling to adapt to the world around them.

"Being a baby boomer doesn't mean you are old-fashioned, and they will try new things," adds Victoria.

Martin Harley, boss of growing multiple operator London Village Inns, adds that it is important to keep an open mind.

"When we open a new place we are thinking about the 30-something professionals," he says. "However, we have guys who have been drinking in our pubs for 30 years and the place is home from home for them. Often the older generation are happy with change, but only if they feel included and still welcome. The best pubs are all inclusive and have all ages and social types."

 

So is it not really about age then?
Well, yes and no. Age is a factor but perhaps not the most important one. Gavin George, chief of pubco Laines which has sites in London and Brighton, says it is more about the attitude of customers you want to appeal to. "Our customers are minded to engage with an offering that is authentic, experiential, immediate, original and personal to them," he says.

 

One for the ages: A mixed crowd enjoy a night at Laine's Ladywell Tavern

 

"That's what we consider when we create a space and develop the offering. Our aim is to provide an out-of-home offering that is inviting, indulging and hopefully inspiring, such that it leaves our customers — whatever their age — wanting to return."

And if you can pull that off you should have a pub where the generations will happily mix.