How do I cater to millennials?

Making up roughly 25% of the UK’s population, millennials are rapidly becoming one of the most talked about generations in recent history. By 2019, it’s expected that millennials – those born between the years 1980 and 2000 – will number 17 million, making them more populous than the Baby Boomers, and the largest generation in western history.

Like the Baby Boomers are Generation X before them, millennials have their own shopping, spending, and even dining habits. The group views eating out as a social activity and, despite being shorter for cash than older generations, they are the demographic that eats out of home most frequently.

As such, it’s important for caterers to make sure that they’re meeting the expectations of this rapidly growing group, and avoid missing out on a large potential group of customers. With this in mind, we’ve put together 5 simple tips that can help caterers to stand out to millennials.  

Keep on top of trends

When it comes to how and what we eat, millennials are tastemakers, being conscious of trends in the restaurant and wider food industry before they eventually trickle up to older generations. This doesn’t just apply to new foods and cuisines, with the spread of trends like sharing platters and communal tables also partly down to increased social focus millennials place on dining out.

Tapping into recent trends doesn’t mean needing to completely change what you do, and small changes can make a big difference. For example, calling starters “small plates” and introducing them as part of a sharing deal maximises their social aspect, and could even increase profit; whereas diners are only likely to purchase one starter, they might be more inclined to buy more than one small plate.

Refresh your menu

Millennials eat out of home more frequently than other generations and, when doing so, are adventurous in their dining habits, placing value on trying new foods. That means that whilst it’s important to note which items sell well, and which offerings are favourites, it’s equally valuable to keep your menu feeling fresh. This could just be offering a select few daily or weekly specials, tailoring existing items with new ingredients or toppings, or introducing a small seasonal menu that changes on a quarterly basis. Doing so could not only keep repeat customers interested, but attract the interest of new customers too.

Offer custom choices

Millennials value individuality, and when eating out, and want an experience that they feel is unique to them. That means that it’s not enough to simply offer set menu items, and that when catering to millennials customisation is key.  

Luckily, offering customisable menu items is perhaps one of the easiest - and most mutually beneficial - ways to stand out to the millennial crowd. Rather than serving items with set sides, offer a range of sides to choose from, like thick cut chips, sweet potato fries, or wedges, all at slightly different price points. You could then offer sides that can be customized with toppings, further emphasising customisability and potentially increasing profit.

This doesn’t just help you stand out, but can also encourage millennial diners – who typically spend less than other generations when eating out -  to splash out and spend a little more money.

Embrace sustainability

Sustainable sourcing is one of the big topics in the catering industry at the moment, and whatever sector you operate in, could be something that makes or breaks a millennial diner’s choice when eating out. Millennials are more likely to eat at places they perceive to be sustainable, so if you’re not using and talking about sustainable ingredients, then you could be limiting your potential customer base.

There’s often a misconception that sourcing sustainable ingredients comes at a premium, but this doesn’t have to be the case; even the humble chip could enhance your sustainable credibility. At McCain Foodservice, our chips are made with potatoes from Red Tractor Assured growers, meaning that not only are they a cost and time effective option; they’re a sustainable one too.

Get online

Millennials are the first generation to grow up alongside the internet, and to an extent live their lives online. It’s not surprising then that a large part of the millennial dining experience takes place online, and that a restaurant having an online presence is viewed as a valued “connection”. When choosing a new place to eat, the first place millennials will look to will be the internet. That means that it’s important to at least have a website with an up to date menu and opening times, as not doing so could make you practically invisible to new diners.

Even better is having an active social media account, through which potential customers can get in touch if needed. This works both ways too, as if you’re doing things well and receive praise through social media, this could encourage potential customers to make a visit.

Follow McCain Foodservice on Twitter for more advice and inspiration.