We quizzed five industry cheeses about the best way to get those stubborn millennials eating your food. Behold, your ultimate guide to cracking the market. Maybe.
Who are these millennial creatures?
‘Millennial’ is one of those annoying marketing terms, but they’re basically anyone born between 1982 and 1996, so are currently 20 to 34 years old.
Marketers love to talk about them because they think "differently". They drink less, grew up with technology and are generally speaking socially, economically, environmentally and health conscious.
Well, research has found that they often prefer to go to the gym than the pub.
But they’re an important customer. The Greene King leisure tracker for April 2016 found 63 per cent of 18-24s and 60 per cent of 25-34s feel an evening meal at a pub or restaurant was the best way to socialise. Plus, they actually like to spend money on a product if they know a story behind it.
Joel Harrison, drinks expert and TV presenter, explains: “It’s about creating an entertaining and engaging environment. They want to have a discussion about products and an experience with whatever it might be that they have in their hand.”
Okay, so what do they want to eat?
Quite a lot… they like to try new things, so don’t be afraid to put something a bit wacky on the menu.
According to research by millennial marketing experts FutureCast, 69 per cent of millennials consider themselves to be adventurous.
Leah Swartz, senior content specialist at the company, says: “They are looking for menu options that go beyond the traditional flavours, and are instead looking to experience more spices and cultural delicacies,” she explains.
Being a generation so prolific on social media means they also like food which is “shareworthy.”
London pub group PubLove introduced in-house burger brand, Burger Craft, which offers big burgers topped high with extras like bacon, onion rings and pulled pork.
Head chef Chris Clawson says these mega-patties pull in younger diners, male and female alike.
“They love a good greasy burger, and a lot of the time they want to Instagram and share what they’re eating. Food visuals are really important, so these big ‘dirty’ meals are very appealing.”
But food porn burgers aren’t your only option for getting this generation away from Netflix and in front of your menu.
Billy Allingham heads up Steamin’ Billy pubs, in Leicestershire, and finds the younger diners like change.
“They’re a fickle generation and like to go anywhere which is ‘on trend’. We keep food fresh, right now we’re doing those steamed bao buns with shredded pork. We also serve food on things like wooden boxes and plastic trays, it’s part of the theatre.
Do they want food to be cheap?
No, it just needs to be reasonable. Billy continues: “Offers are very successful but it’s not a price thing. For example the student union bars are putting beer on at £4.50 a pint, because if it’s in the right glass and the right environment, then they’ll pay for it. Same for food.”
In fact, it might not be how much they pay for it, but just how they pay for it. Billy says: “Paying and ordering is key with them. I can’t stand ordering at the bar but they’re happy to do it so they can come in big groups and pay individually.”
But they’ll only buy a lime & soda?
Wrong. Cue Leah again, with the research bit.
She says: “As millennials get older, their drinking habits are changing. We are seeing growth from drinking to get drunk to drinking for the social experience.
"Remember, they expect every aspect of their meal to deliver an experience and adventure. Businesses can leverage this trend by implementing pairing menus.”
How can I get them to even see my menu?
“We maintain a strong online and offline presence, including regular updates about what we’ve got on the menu or videos of our chefs cooking up a storm.
“We also employ the very same people that we’re trying to attract – millennials. They’re a breath of fresh air and they know their audience, this allows them to connect to customers and our customers come back for that relationship.”
Just as you thought you'd got your head around Millennials, generation Z came along, and they could be the scary ones. Read this.