While Millennials, who are currently between the ages of 20 and 35, may lack the discretionary income of the fine-dining Boomer set, they are dining out more frequently, making their wants and needs increasingly relevant to restaurants that want to capture a share of the Millennial dollar.
“Millennials dine out a lot,” affirms Sara Monnette, director of consumer research at foodservice research firm Technomic. “In terms of spending, they’re not the biggest spenders at restaurants because they don’t have as much disposable income, but they are dining out frequently. And based on where they are in their lives—a lot are moving back home, living with parents, living in multi-generational households—they tend to use restaurants as a place to gather with their friends.”
In fact, 41 percent of Millennials purchase food away from home at least twice a week, compared to 38 percent of Gen Xers and 37 percent of Baby Boomers, according to Technomic’s report, Understanding the Foodservice Attitudes & Behaviors of Millennials, which reveals critical insights on the similarities and differences between Millennial, Generation X, and Baby Boomer consumers.
Because Millennials are using restaurants as a place to gather, Monnette says “having a menu and ambiance that are inviting, and that allows them to share food and socialize, is really important.”
Food-industry market research firm Datassentials found that roughly 20 percent of Millennials’ away-from-home occasions are with friends and a “hip” setting can also be more relevant.
San Clemente, California-based Sandelman & Associates has come across similar findings. “From our research on casual-dining users, we know that a fun place to go is more important for Millennials than Baby Boomers,” says Jeff Davis, chief analyst of Sandelman & Associates. “In addition, alcohol is an important part of determining a fun place. Dining is entertainment, something to do with friends, and they might be looking for places to hang out without spending a lot of money.”
According to Technomic’s report, 20 percent of Millennials say the availability of alcoholic beverages is important compared to 12 percent of Gen Xers and 10 percent of Baby Boomers.
The group, comparatively, is also more likely to value “very low prices,” with nearly 40 percent considering price to be extremely important when eating out—more than other age groups, according to Datassentials.
“Millennials view themselves as very unique, so they want to be able to make that menu item fit their own unique tastes,” Monnette says. In fact, 21 percent of the Millennials surveyed said they are drawn to restaurants that offer the ability to customize a meal; it was important to only 16 percent of Gen Xers and 15 percent of Boomers.
“Also, cravings are more important,” Monnette says, with 35 percent of Millennials stating that it’s important for dine-in restaurant occasions to offer “options [they’re] craving and are in the mood for.”