Restaurant operators are continuing to look for ways to tap into the wallets and loyalty of the Millennial generation.
Entertainment brands MTV and VH1 are providing insight into the growing demographic market with extensive research on the estimated 80 million U.S. citizens born between 1980 and 2000.
Danniele Meglen, director of ad sales research for the music group of Viacom Media Networks, parent to the MTV and VH1 networks, said the best way to successfully capture the group’s attention is to show them you're listening.
Meglen, who spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News after giving a presentation on Feb. 6 at the Southwest Media Group’s Immersion 2013 digital summit in Dallas, said, “As a generation, Millennials have had people listening to them their whole lives — their teachers, their principals, their parents. They’ve had all these ‘life coaches’ their entire lives.”
That makes Millennials ignore standard top-down organizations and messaging, she added.
“It’s all about the democratized view,” Meglen said. “The ways you can listen are by asking, ‘What do you want from us as a restaurant or a QSR that would make it a better experience for you in the future?’ Millennials aren’t afraid to share that.”
Social media, such as Facebook pages and other platforms, make it easy for a brand to ask the questions and engage the Millennial customer, she noted.
Experiences are also important for Millennials, Meglen said. “Brands that deliver on that promise of feeling good and having a good time are the ones that will do well.”
So what are Millennials looking for in restaurants?
We haven’t done any specific studies on the restaurant category, but I can borrow from a study we’ve done on retail. … Millennials are looking for experiences, and that’s where restaurants in casual dining and QSR can borrow: It’s all about building an experience and sharing in that experience.
What messages appeal to Millennials?
One of the most interesting things we’ve been seeing happening among Millennials in that space is the photography of food and how food has become a personal expression — a personal extension — of the generation. They want to try new types of foods, new fusions, new experiences and document those. I can’t tell you how many times you can see food pictures on Instagram, on Twitter, on Facebook of food and what people are eating.
Where do customized foods fit in, such as at Chipotle and other brands?
The ability to customize things and make things feel personal is important.
Are Millennials driven by value promotions and deals?
The deal is a given. The parents were more driven by the deal. For the Millennials in retail, the deal is expected. And the experience is what takes it to the next level.
The messaging of sale pricing is expected.
Will they pay more for an experience?
That’s one of the reasons Whole Foods is so popular among Millennials. It’s not a cheap grocery store, but the experience of grocery shopping at a Whole Foods is much different. It feels good for Millennials to purchase things from there.
They can taste things. The Whole Foods in Chicago has a bar, and you can do wine tastings or walk around the store with a beer. It’s all about the social aspect and bringing it to any brick-and-mortar establishment. The Apple Store is the ultimate experience for Millennials.
You say 75 percent of Millennials consider themselves starting a movement to change old, outdated systems, and they see business as the intersection of commerce and social cause. Would you explain further?
What we see a lot with Millennials is that they are really into ‘giving back.’ They are very charitable and pro-social as a generation. A lot of stats in our study are about how they want to create a new movement, fix things that are broken. They know they can do that through commerce. Tom’s for shoes, Warby Parker for glasses. That’s an easy business proposition in becoming successful with the Millennial Generation. They want things to change. They want to be part of bringing back the American Dream.
Your studies found that 72 percent of Millennials agree that ‘life is like an app,’ and that products will improve and change.
In general, Millennials view the world in a very democratized light. Anybody they can connect with is considered a peer, whether it is through digital or in person. The Internet and Facebook and all those mechanisms have democratized the world. So for them, brands and marketers are peers. Because they feel that way, their peers are allowed to make mistakes. It’s just: Are you learning from those mistakes and what are you doing to make amends?
Can brands still make errors?
What we found is that Millennials are more forgiving of brands that acknowledge they made a mistake and apologized. An example is Netflix, which wanted to spin off into two separate companies. Consumers got upset about it, but the CEO sent out an email and said he was sorry and they were going back to the way they were doing it before.