Earlier this year, the Corn Refiners Association commissioned a study, completed in part by Ipsos and BuzzFeed, that shed some light on the Millennial generation. Their findings revealed that, despite stereotypes and widespread consumer generalization, this controversial segment couldn’t be painted in one broad stroke. That means operators in the restaurant industry must start approaching this future pool of diners strategically, aggressively, and with plenty of foresight.

The study was labeled GenerationWhy, and was pooled from 1,001 Millennials, as well as 250 generation Xers (generally referring to anyone born in the early 1960s to 1980s), and 250 Baby Boomers (birth dates 1946 to 1964).

Recently, the second iteration of the study was released, addressing the shopping and dining preferences of Millennial parents vs. non-parents. The question was: How does parenthood change Millennial diners’ attitudes and behaviors? Here’s what it found.

For starters, given that most Millennials are transitioning into adulthood, this is a time of constant change, from jobs to school to buying homes. Having children might be the biggest factor of them all. From a dining perspective, how does considering the food preferences of another person affect their choices?

The study found that when choosing a restaurant, parents in this segment are more concerned about health and more willing to sacrifice taste than non-parents are. “Healthy menu items” were picked by 18 percent of the surveyed as their No. 1 choice (compared to 12 percent of non-parents). Only 33 percent chose taste, while that number jumped to 42 percent with non-parents.

Millennial parents (28 percent) also say that it’s worth sacrificing taste for healthier options. That drops to 17 percent with non-parents.

“Part two of the GenerationWhy research digs deeper into the lives of our four millennial segments to uncover how becoming parents impacts their dining preferences,” says Sara Martens, vice president of the MSR Group and GenerationWhy research analyst. “Regardless of whether they are parents or not, the No. 1 factor in choosing a restaurant is always taste.”

The earlier study identified four groups of Millennials: The first was “Traditionalist Taylor,” which makes up the largest segment at 37 percent. This group, according to the data, was the least likely to look at nutrition labels regularly, and is more concerned with how food tastes and what it costs than trying new things.

The next was “Bon Vivant Brittany.” This 23 percent crop falls into the “younger” Millennials range (18—25, the older is 26—34), and is one of two identified groups dining out more often at restaurants.

Third—“Food Purist Paige”—accounts for 19 percent of the Millennials population and is the most likely, as the name suggests, to avoid specific foods and ingredients.

“Balance-Seeker Brad” stands in as the final category at 16 percent. “Brad” reads nutrition labels regularly, with family in mind, but tends to look at food holistically rather than avoiding specific ingredients.

The new study found that higher-income segments, not surprisingly, dine out more, and that Millennial consumers’ food budgets don’t vary all that much between parents and non-parents. However, there are some striking differences between the above groups. Traditionalist Taylor and Food Purist Paige spend more than 70 percent of their budget on groceries, and the higher-earning segments, Bon Vivant Brittany and Balance-Seeker Brad, spend less than 40 percent.

Breaking them down, Brad, the balance seeker, has high expectations across the board, especially when dining out. Brad picks taste as the top factor with healthy options, enjoyable experience, and value following. This differs in that value is ranked second for every other Millennial group.

For Taylor, the ranking is taste, value, healthy menu items, experience, and experience. Brittany: taste, value, healthy menu items, and experience. Paige: taste, value, healthy menu items, and experience.

The study’s concludes that parents and non-parents each have their own priorities when dining out, and that it’s crucial to keep in mind such factors as income level when trying to meet their needs. Consumers like Brad, who have higher-than-normal expectations and exert social media clout, need to be targeted by restaurants. Understanding how Millennials think could be the first step toward positioning a brand for sustained success.

Danny Klein

Industry News