How to Appeal to the Taste Buds (And Other Tastes) of Millennials

By: Chef Steve D’Angelo, Corporate Chef for Dover’s Unified Brands 

Each generation brings its own unique tastes and trends. Along with these new interests also comes a need for operators to modernize and accommodate a changing customer base. The millennial generation, the demographic born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, is making a big statement in the foodservice businesses today — with their wallets serving as their voice.

Media has a massive effect on this age group and is even instrumental in how some trends develop. “Blast media,” “flash savings” and “fast pass” are all buzz words we hear today that resonate with this audience. Millennials, sometimes referred to as the “grab ‘n go” generation, have influenced and created a new foodservice culture. It is a wise business decision for operators to understand and cater to this culture.

There is a primary trend called “Simple and Real” that includes fresh, safe, healthy, wholesome, ethical and easy-to-understand food practices. Let’s discuss this new trend and how it applies to millennials:

Fresh encompasses everything from lettuce to surroundings, packaging to staff uniforms. The fresher and newer the item or environment, the more attractive it is to this age group — whether that refers to a specific meal or a restaurant’s ambiance.
Safe is important as well. Remember, this generation is all too familiar with product tampering and recalls through recent scandals and contamination reports. A safe operation provides relief and positive reinforcement for customers to continue buying your product.
Healthy and wholesome work well together. Detoxing with fruits, vegetables and juices is growing in popularity among millennials. Meat has become a popular item again, with an increasing interest in organic, free range and grass-fed products. Millennials care about the ingredients and nutrition in their food more than any previous generation.
Ethical refers to how food is sourced. Running a clean, green business matters to this demographic, and they also want to know where their food is coming from.
Easy-to-understand provides visibility to customers about what they are consuming, which enhances trust in a particular product or brand. Fine print is often overlooked and doesn’t present complete transparency.

All of these new trends together give you an accurate picture of the kind of values that attract millennial customers today. Operators who build menu choices with fresh, flavorful ingredients will attract more business from this generation than those who don’t. Taking into account millennials’ needs and desires for healthier, more conscientious options can be the difference in the success of a fine dining restaurant, delicatessen or fast food chain. Millennials are certainly a visual group as well, so packaging and displays also play a primary role.

Here are some ideas for attracting millennials to your establishment:

• Try new preparations along with standard fare to give old food items a new boost.
• Use interesting breads and greens along with a variety of spreads and dressings.
• Include international flavors for adventurous consumers.
• Choose quality meat products and communicate that with this audience to enhance trust and visibility.
• Use recyclable packaging that eliminates unnecessary waste.
• Use graphics on products that clearly communicate a story.
• Display “grab ‘n go” items in a clean, well-lit Randell display case that maintains the appropriate temperature for food items.

Today’s foodservice trends can be an exciting yet challenging venture for operators. Understanding your millennial customers and what they desire when it comes to convenience and food quality can boost your business. Don’t be afraid to try something new — go out there and get into the mix!

UB Millenial