How Generations Y and Z Are Shifting the Industry


You need millennials, but earning their business requires something different

The term “millennial” actually encompasses both Generations Y and Z, which number close to 80 million people. These folks born between 1984 and 2004 will soon make up 80 percent of the workforce and will be your most frequent customers. They’re the latest generation of food lovers but if you haven’t noticed, millennials are unlike any other generation in history.

Whether we’re talking about the older members of this generation (the twenty and thirty somethings) or the younger end of the curve, it’s crucial to your success to understand who they are and how they’re shifting the way restaurants do business – and then adapt.

Give it wings and make it fly!

I’ve mention this before, but it bears repeating here: According to new market studies by the National Restaurant Association, 70 percent of all restaurant foot traffic will be offsite by the year 2020. That means that in just a few short years, 7 out of 10 of your customers will not sit down to eat their meals inside your establishment. And although most of these folks aren’t well-versed in the kitchen, or even have the time or the inclination to cook their own meals, they still want to enjoy a nice meal and to socialize with friends.

Even if they’re going out for a long lunch or having dinner out once or twice a week, they’re still looking to get good food for the rest of their meals. And to gain their business, you have to give them what they want: convenience. If you’re not offering drive-thru, pick-up, and/or delivery, you’re missing an essential opportunity with the millennial generations.

You might even consider creating a food truck version of your restaurant that offers several of your top menu items. Then, you can bring your establishment to the places your customers frequent and entice new patrons at the same time.

Make it fast, sleek and responsive

This generation was the first in the history of the world to be born into mobile technology. They don’t just like it, they expect it. Recognizing and adapting to the relationship between millennials and tech is key and should not be underestimated, according to an article by the National Restaurant Association. If you haven’t created a website that’s responsive (which means it will work just as well on a phone, laptop, or tablet as it does on a desktop computer), do it right now.

Your millennial customers want to look you up on their phone or other mobile devices and see what you’re all about, check out your menu and even place an order online without having to wait. In fact, 32 percent of millennials report that they check restaurant menus on their mobile devices “often” or “very often,” according to Food Service Warehouse. So a slow-loading site or one that’s not responsive will quickly propel them to seek out your competition.

Service without a smile?

Everyone appreciates pleasant wait staff, but your millennial customers like placing their own orders through your digital menu or on table tablets. Because they’re tech savvy and always on the go, this generation uses mobile tech for nearly everything they do—so why should eating at your restaurant be any different?

The numbers speak for themselves, 71 percent of millennials (17-34 years-old) prefer to order via a tableside tablet, according to a study done by Software Advice. Which is actually the exact opposite of your older guests (55 and over) who would rather not place their order themselves.

So when you think about it, offering tableside kiosks means you can appeal to all of your guests, no matter what generation they fall into.

Free Wi-Fi or say goodbye!

Millennials look for Wi-Fi wherever they go and for whatever they’re doing. And since they’re the folks who are taking pics of your dishes, posting them on social media (free advertising), and telling their hundreds of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter friends about their experience at your restaurant, it only makes sense that you’d want to give them what they want.

Free Wi-Fi doesn’t cost you anything extra and the rewards you’ll reap by offering this service are exponential. It encourages your customers (including millennials) to stick around longer, order more food, and connect with friends while dining. In 2013 (and these numbers have grown immensely since then), 54 percent of 18-24 year olds reported taking photos of their food while eating—and 90 new photos were posted to Instagram with the tag #foodporn every single minute.

Don’t even give it a second thought, free Wi-Fi is a no-brainer. If you don’t give it to your millennial patrons, you can wave goodbye as they go down the block to a restaurant that does.

To be successful in the restaurant business, catering to the unique needs of your customers is key. Millennials will soon make up the largest portion of your customer base, so understanding what they want, what they expect, and what will keep them coming back for more is vital to achieving your goals.

For more information on running your restaurant and how to increase profits, get your copy of The Profit Recipe today.


Cesar Quintero

Cesar Quintero

Foodpreneur / Coach / Speaker at Fit2Go
Cesar Quintero is the founder of Fit2Go, a healthy meal delivery service in South Florida, and the author of The Profit Recipe: Top Restaurant Trends and How to Use Them to Boost Your Margins.
Cesar Quintero