Rachel Mitchell, marketing manager

Although they don’t have considerable spending power now, Millennials will soon dominate consumer behavior.  We are already seeing this begin to take place in the current market, and it will only continue to grow. Therefore, it is vital for restaurant operators to learn how to connect with Millennials on a personal and authentic level.

According to research by Nielson, there are five defining characteristics of Millennials that should be addressed.

  1. They are diverse, expressive and optimistic. They place value in the arts and self-expression, and are led by their typically high levels of education.
  2. They are urban thinkers. Those that are not living with their parents are often found in the cities, looking for the vibrant energy of housing, shops and offices all in the same area.
  3. They desire authenticity and caring. Millennials value high-quality, locally produced items, and are especially drawn to places that have a social impact.
  4. They are well-connected and look for the personal touch. Using high levels of technology in nearly every aspect of their lives, they value authentic, personal communications when interacting with brands via social media.
  5. They are struggling, but climbing the ladder. They were hit particularly hard by the Great Recession, and as such, they put a priority on value when making purchasing decisions.

Knowing these five traits makes it easier to understand that Millennials care about a number of things that simply weren’t brand drivers in the past. Therefore, in order to resonate with this generation, it’s important to have clearly defined core values. If you decide to represent something, then everything about your business and your restaurant should reflect that.

So, what does this mean in terms of design?

For starters, make sure your brand represents the things that drive Millennials’ passions. Intentionally choose core values that are relevant to them will help foster the long-term relationships you’re looking to create. Respect their authenticity, creativity and diversity. Look for them in the cities, and relate to them by supporting their causes. Reach them via the social media and mobile channels that they access every day. And finally, give them a deal by providing a great value. Catching their attention now can lead to promising relationships in the future.

Additionally, here are three ways you can ensure your design resonates with the Millennials you are trying to reach:

  1. Communicate your socially responsible practices. This can be done through marketing materials at the point of purchase, menu items that directly benefit a charitable organization or highlighting menu ingredients purchased from local suppliers.
  2. Give them a variety of experience options. This will work to engage the Millennial customer on a number of levels and can be done through the creation of different seating areas and styles within your restaurant. Counter tops with bar seating, lounge areas with soft seating and/or community tables give Millennials an opportunity to pick their dining experience.
  3. Walk your talk. If you define yourself as a healthy restaurant, then not only should your menu and ingredients feature fresh, organic and local options – your design should display this through natural material choices and informative graphics. Conversely, if you are brand that is clearly an indulgence, you need to own it. Make the entire experience about indulgence and let the environment reinforce that.

Featured in Modern Restaurant Magazine.