Breakfast for dinner? We can thank social media for popularizing this trend. A Twitter storm a few years ago helped McDonald’s Canada to decide that breakfast-for-dinner was here to stay.
And who were those tweeting customers? The Millennials, of course. Younger millennials in particular – also known as ‘trailing millennials’ – are changing the game in foodservice. An extensive ongoing tracking study by Ipsos Canada of eating habits of Canadians reveals that Millennials tend to eat “small meals through the day when it suits their needs.” Millennials seek food options that reflect their non-conventional lifestyle. According to the Ipsos study lead, “(Millennials) do things on their own time. They’ve never known ‘closed on Sundays,’ they shop when they want, they work – many of them – in situations that appease their need to have their own schedules.”
“(Millennials) do things on their own time. They’ve never known ‘closed on Sundays,’ they shop when they want, they work – many of them – in situations that appease their need to have their own schedules.”Ipsos Canada
Foodservice operators – and not just the giants like McDonald’s – are taking notice and adapting to meet this expectation.
In Canada and the U.S., the Millennial Generation Y cohort is now as large as the Boomers, according to Statistics Canada. As a percentage of the labour force, GenY is already far and away the biggest group. These numbers speak volumes, and underscore the inevitability of demography in a “post-growth” 21st century.
In her book, “A Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs, and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food,” Eve Turow-Paul, herself a Millennial, spent close to four years interviewing peers, reviewing academic work, and talking to iconic foodies like the late Anthony Bourdain and Michael Pollan.
The genesis for the book was an observation she made while sitting in a college class. “One of the girls across from me was saying that there was a frozen yogurt place (that had) flavours that changed every day. She had the number on her phone and would call them every day to see what the flavour (du jour) was.”
This observation was the catalyst for her research. Her chief takeaways?
Millennials are the most food-obsessed generation in history.
Newton’s 3rd Law states that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. After all of that screen time on their smartphones and other devices, it’s not surprising that Millennials are looking for something tangible, genuine, and sensory.
Generation Y is the product of the shock of colliding negative and positive factors.
The negative charges: political cynicism and sustained economic recession. On the positive side: ever expanding access to technology and information. The result is mixed and somewhat contradictory. Many studies have concluded that Millennials exhibit elevated rates of anxiety, depression, and even suicide. However, access to technology and social media provides Millennials with the sense of empowerment, community, and control they crave.
Turow-Paul pulls no punches: “I think we need to make food something that Millennials want to be part of their brand. We need to make it hip. I don’t believe that this is a generation of people who just want to do good things; I think (Millennials) are self-serving and narcissistic. I think we’re really invested in branding ourselves.”
For Millennials, what and where they eat (or don’t eat) is as much a part of their identity as the social media sites they connect on. The labels Local, Organic, Gluten-free, GMO, Single-source, Bio-dynamic, Vegan, Cage-free, Paleo, Fair trade – have become powerful tags for this group.
Wondering how can your restaurant better engage with the Millennial tribe? There is no silver bullet. According to Environics Analytics, the group is extremely diverse. Beyond the “Living at Home” and “Left Home” divide, there are upwards of a dozen unique cultural, ethnic, educational, value, and economic archetypes among Millennials.
Millennials love their tech
The one commonality is technology. Smartphone ownership for Millennials is over 90% and significantly higher than for older Canadians. That’s why it is critical for restaurants to create an online presence where customers can easily find their menu.
All-in-one platform Sociavore helps independent foodservice operators manage their restaurant business online – from professional web presence to ordering, customer feedback, payments and analytics – so they can reach this tech-savvy cohort.
Top tips for foodservice operators to engage Millennials
- Make your brand their brand. Millennials are focused on personal brand-building. Try to make a connection between your offering and their personality.
- Work your social media channels. The Millennials are likely the most social media– and tech-obsessed generation.
- Consider your social conscience. Millennials are cause-focused, and they care about where their food comes from.
- Make it memorable. Millennials are looking for “experiential” eating. Touch, taste, appearance help to sell food to them.
About the Author
Darren Climans is a foodservice insights professional with more than 20 years experience partnering with broadline distributors, CPG suppliers, and foodservice operators. His practice is to understand issue-based decisions by taking a data-driven approach to strategic decision-making.