Educated Urbanites: The New Foodies


An expanding and tasteful demographic is garnering attention from full-service restaurants. Should you target them, too?

In 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that more than 37 million people in the U.S. over the age of 25 now have a Bachelor’s degree. Many of these same people dwell in big cities and urban areas, have a higher disposable income, and hold lofty standards when it comes to where and what they eat. Who are these people?

They’re called “educated urbanites,” and they’re a segment of the market to which many restaurateurs have begun to pay closer attention. “They’re a more sophisticated component of the target market for restaurants,” says Gene Dillard, president of foodservice marketing firm, FoodWise Group. “They have diverse interests, and they’re probably more inclined to try new things.”

“They take full advantage of living in the city and go out to eat regularly,” says Linda Duke, a restaurant consultant with Duke Marketing. “Educated urbanites pay a premium for convenience in their lifestyles, and they look for restaurants that can deliver on this.”

Duke says educated urbanites demand not just ordinary, but extraordinary experiences when dining out and “want to patronize restaurants that will allow them “high maintenance services with a smile.”

Discriminating Diners

Often called “foodies,” Dillard says this audience is “more discriminating in their tastes” and takes pride “in their judgment and finding new restaurants that are interesting to them and their friends.”

For restaurants, this cultivated taste and penchant for experimenting when it comes to food choice can provide a challenge, especially in big cities like New York and Chicago, where diners could literally eat at a different restaurant every night and never run out of choices.

“I think you have to continually keep their interest,” Dillard says, “so that may mean menu updates and doing everything possible to keep the dialogue fresh with these urbanites because they are discriminating and they have lots of choices and they do experiment with them. To keep them loyal, you have to work hard to keep their attention.”

This loyalty, Dillard says, comes primarily from the ability to deliver on service and quality, something that “is probably ahead of price consideration for the educated group,” he says.


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