How to Engage Millennial Diners

By Posted in - Restaurant PR + Hospitality PR on November 25th, 2015 young diners toasting

As consumers, millennials pack a punch.

Not only is this burgeoning demographic considered the nation’s trendsetter, it’s also projected to spend a whoppin’ $200 billion annually starting in 2017.  Exploratory and brand-loyal millennials foster repeat business; nearly 70 percent say they will return to a favorite brand. Once you have their attention, you have it for life.

Armed with social influence and financial means, millennials have the power to put an eatery on the map and keep it there. But the traditional staples of business — good product + good service — don’t translate anymore.

What strategies do we need to win the hearts (and wallets and tweets) of these thought leaders?

Create an old-fashioned social.

millennials diners being social

Stacey Sprenz Photography

For a generation who is always connected to social media, it may seem counterintuitive, but millennial diners prize relationships over products. Restaurants can create an appeal by crafting open, social spaces, such as a chef’s table that fosters cross-group conversation. Large, hefty meals are a thing of the past. Research shows that millennials prefer several smaller, sharable plates and snack-style options that can be passed among friends. Think tasting party, not formal feast.

Highlight the exotic.

Ditch good ‘ole vanilla—unless it’s paired with something like sriracha. The adventurous millennial palate prefers exotic flavors, extreme textures, dramatic flairs or unexpected twists in dishes. This is the perfect opportunity for chefs to showcase house specialties, rare ingredients, new prep methods and one-of-a-kind creations. Highlight options that may not be found in other restaurants, such as Clairemont client Il Palio’s unexpected sweet corn gelato, a surprisingly delicious combination of veggies and dessert.

Show, don’t tell.

Chef Teddy Diggs in kitchen at Il Palio

Courtesy of Jill Warren Lucas

As a generation that seeks authenticity, millennials want to see “what’s going on back there.” They’re deeply invested in the story of a business — ingredients, sourcing, preparation — and above all, they crave an experience rather than a product. So ditch corporate, packaged messaging and roll out the red carpet! Provide a sneak peek of new dishes, invite them for an exclusive tour of the kitchen or invite them to meet the chef (and his family, if he’s willing!).

Invite co-creation.

Millennials don’t consider themselves to be consumers; they see themselves as partners in creating the product. This demographic demands a hands-on, customizable experience that allows them to personalize, tweak and have input on the output. Explore creative strategies to invite millennials to craft a dish or experience, weigh in on menu options and provide feedback—whether via clever social media strategies or simple face-to-face conversation.

Keep talking.

Millennials not only talk to brands on social media, they expect for brands to talk back–regularly. Invest time and energy in your social media and online conversations.

restaurant social mediaAs Forbes aptly points out, “62 percent of millennials say that if a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer.” Don’t be afraid to be authentic online with millennial diners by including emotions, using trending hashtags and even tagging other fans. Proactively connect with customers by checking in on past Twitter conversations, updating diners on feedback or soliciting ideas for dishes. Keep in touch with these new friends of yours!

Want the next step? Find out how to engage with them at food festivals, too.

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