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Millennials think of food as an experience rather than just nutrients, so offering new flavor adventures is a great way to attract a younger diners.

How to Cater to Millennial Foodies

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What restaurants need to know about how younger consumers think about food
By Mark Sutter July 2017 Expert Insights

Today’s millennial foodies are all about a healthy lifestyle. If you’re looking to grab lunch with a millennial anytime soon, here are some things you need to know:

1. Millennials are Not About Sacrifice

While purported to be the healthiest generation yet, millennials believe in “Healthy Indulgence.” Eight in 10 millennials (18-34) believe it’s important to eat healthy, but it’s good to indulge occasionally. This is the dichotomy of this generation. That means your menu has plenty of room for kale and cupcakes.

2. Eating Right Trumps Losing Weight

Millennials also prefer to eat right rather than focus on a weight loss diet. They stay away from dieting plans, preferring to incorporate healthy eating or diet-like trends, like paleo, vegan, and gluten-free foods, into their regimen. Provide some options so that those who want to eat healthy-ish don’t have to do it at the expense of enjoying their experience.

3. Food is an Experience

Millennials are a sensation-driven generationthat craves sensory stimulation. Not surprisingly, three out of four millennials say that eating is an experience. Eating provides a sense of adventure, as they explore new food trends and new eating experiences. They live to mix and match ingredients, sides and sauces. Does your menu allow customers to make every meal their own?

4. Millennials Love Food—A Lot  

How much do they love food? Staggeringly, more than half of millennials agreed that, “eating can be as pleasurable as sex.” And if that wasn’t shocking enough, one in three millennials agreed that “given the choice between sex and an excellent dinner at a restaurant, I would choose the dinner.” We don’t judge here. But you see the high expectations for your restaurant to perform.

5. Food is Functional

Millennials may have the highest Food IQ of any generation, thanks to technology. But their focus is often less about eliminating foods than about adding them.

They want to understand what’s inside the food they put in their bodies, but also which foods provide value to their health.

Millennials are turning to the Internet to educate themselves on functional ingredients and how to use them. For example, according to Think with Google, the term “turmeric” saw a 56 percent rise from November 2015 through 2016 and a reported total of 3.9 million video views featured turmeric benefit educational content. Millennials want to get theirnutrients from real food and beverages to achieve their healthy lifestyle goals. So, what’s in an entrée won’t scare this crowd. In fact, it might be what makes them come back.

6. Food is Part of Their Personal Brand

Food is a critical building block of millennials’ personal brands and is an outlet for lifestyle indulgence. Two-thirds of millennials say that the food they buy says a lot about them. Food is another way to express their creativity and sense of design. Food knowledge and experience is social currency.

7. Food is Social

It used to be that when a photo flash went off in a restaurant it was someone’s birthday. Today it’s simply that the millennials at table seven got their food.

Food is an essential part of their social identity as well. Eating is viewed as a group event—sharing food amongst friends, family or coworkers, but more importantly their Instagram or Snapchat followers. #Food is one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram, followed by #recipe, #instafood, #nomnom, #foodpic, and #yum. Word of mouth is critical for restaurant success. Are your plated entrées share-worthy?

Instagram Hashtags:

219M #FOOD

122M #FOODPORN

59M #FOODIE

So, what does all of this mean for full-service restaurants that are trying to connect with millennial foodies? Knowing your audience is key. When creating a strategy, the best approach is to not shy away from offering a variety of menu items, be it a healthy or indulgent one. Let millennial foodies decide what they want to eat. And be sure you give them options to make it their own so they proudly share their meals with their followers.

For more insight on the millennial foodie, check out this infographic.

As The Halo Group’s lead marketing consultant and brand strategist, Mark oversees the development of all communications to ensure every experience is targeted and bears a single brand focus. With more than 30 years of experience, Mark has seen the evolution in the field of strategy and has worked with top-tier consumer and business-to-business brands including Clairol, Mobil, AXA, Mrs. Paul’s Seafood, and Colombian Coffee. In the health and wellness category, Mark recently helped ShopRite’s launch Wholesome Pantry, a line of free-from and organic products, and Hess Express refresh their private label Good To Go brand.