Did you know that there are now 80 million Millennials in the U.S.? This group of individuals born between 1982 and 2000 now outnumbers the Baby Boomers — previously holder of the title, “Largest Generation Ever”– and makes up a full quarter of the nation’s population, according to the United Census Bureau.
The takeaway for today’s restaurant owners? You’d better know what they like to eat.
Luckily, research from leading authority on Millennials Ypulse reveals some interesting insights into Millennial tastes and their role in the rise of foodie culture. Let’s takes a closer look at the findings, along with what they mean for today’s bottom line-minded restaurants.
Millennials Are Foodies…Just Ask Them
All of this talk begs the question: What’s a “ foodie ,” anyway? Many attribute the word’s first use to restaurant critic, author and novelist Gael Greene, who used it as far back as 1980 in a New York article, What’s Nouvelle? La Cuisine Bourgeoise.
Since then, the term has evolved to refer to all manner of food-obsessed people. In its anti-”foodie” diatribe, “We Hate the Word Foodie,” The Huffington Post argues that the words should be banished from the English vocabulary due to a pre-existing number of other words which already cover extreme food love, including “food lover,” “gourmand,” and “food nerd.”
But despite The Huffington Post’s ire, the word “ foodie ” is clearly here to stay — at least if the Millennials have anything to say about it. (And given their sheer numbers, they absolutely do.)
In fact, according to the results of monthly survey conducted by Ypulse, passion for food — and use of the word “ foodie ” — is going strong among the Millennial generation. An impressive 46 percent of young consumers between the ages of 25 and 33 consider themselves “foodies.”
The 13 to 33 year-old subset of Millennials trail only slightly behind in their enthusiasm, with 42 percent expressing their interest in food at this early stage of life.
In other words, whether your love or loathe the term, it’s very much part of the Millennial experience.
Understanding the Trend
What has spurned this paramount interest in food among Millennials? According to a report from Eater, the Great Recession played an interesting — and somewhat unexpected — role in influencing Millennial attitudes toward food.
Fear of job instability and high student debt may have left the younger generation gun-shy when it comes to the acquisition of material things, but ripe for “spending money in a novel way,” AKA on experiences rather than things.
In this sense, being a “foodie” is more than about simply embracing food, but also as a form of identity. Says Eater, “For those who entered the workforce during the recession, food offers some Millennials a feeling of control over their lives —Â€Â” a psychological utility by consuming better-quality foods.”
In other words, eating the right foods has become a barometer of social status.
Beyond Good Food
People have always enjoyed and prioritized tasty food, so where do Millennials diverge from the past? Research points to an unprecedented push for innovation, vibrancy, knowledge, and a sense of control when it comes to the foods they eat.
And then there’s the added factor of social media, and the fact that sharing food love with others has become a form of social currency.
So what does all of this mean for restaurants? For starters, the loyalty of Millennials diners can be harder to come by.
According to Ypulse, they like to cook at home — an average of 4.9 nights per week! But that doesn’t mean they’re a lost cause. Millennials also enjoy eating out — particularly if you play to their preferences, including the following:
• Novelty is big. Millennials like to try new things, and getting the word out about everything from new menu items to digital integration is key. Offering special events can help bring them through the door, and wow-ing them every step of the way will keep them coming back for more.
• Speaking of digital integration, Millennials are drawn to all things technological so seek out opportunities to woo them with free wireless internet, location “check-in” specials, texted promotions, and other pro-mobile strategies.
• Millennials are all about sustainability and giving back. Showcasing your efforts at social awareness and responsibility is a great way to connect your brand with their beliefs.
• Maintaining open communications is also key. Millennials like to have a voice, so invite their ideas and feedback.
And encourage them to share, in return! Word-of-mouth is huge among Millennials, who value each other’s opinions above all else. Cultivate an engaging online presence — and platform for sharing — to maximize peer-to-peer exchange.
All of these add up to more than food, but to a true foodie culture — the primary thing Millennials are looking to encounter when choosing which establishments to patronize.
One last thing to keep in mind? While Millennials may get the majority of media attention these days, writing off the Baby Boomers is a huge mistake.
While they may neither think of themselves as “foodies” nor think of food in terms of the status it conveys, they’re still food enthusiasts with $3.2 trillion in annual spending power.
Even better? They’re ready, willing and able to open up their wallets when the right dining experience presents itself — making marketing to this generation an equally essential strategy.