Younger customers want to dine at restaurants that they perceive as ethical—use locally-sourced, organic or fair-trade ingredients; are environmentally friendly and are good corporate citizens. Brands such as Starbucks, who are positioned as being socially progressive, are popular with younger diners. They will expose and shun restaurants that “green wash” and don’t really commit to the concept of being environmentally responsible.
Like the aging Boomers, Millennials want healthy food. However, this younger generation defines healthy differently than Boomers, who count calories. Millenials want to know about their food, where it was grown, how it was prepared, and seek foods that are fresh, not processed, and made from scratch using authentic ingredients and recipes. Organic, hormone-free, free-range chicken and eggs all have cachet with this generation. To some extent, they are willing to pay a premium for such ingredients—but not a significant premium. Also, this generation wants the option of different portion sizes.
The preferred service style for Millennials is fast-casual. The definition of fast casual is somewhat varied depending on who you ask but essentially offers quality similar to casual dining restaurants, but ordered at a counter and served at (or close to) fast-food speeds. Fast casual restaurants typically make it easy to customize your food and actively welcome you to do so as part of their product offering. Customizable products are essential for this group who also like “secret” menu items that aren’t displayed in the restaurant but available to those “in the know.” Fast casual is a great format for operators given the lower fixed costs. However, to attract young diners the staff must share their values. Boomers, on the other hand, strongly prefer table service when dining out. Millennials also want to use their smart phones to order, hear about specials and manage loyalty programs. The willingness to pay using cell phones, however, is not as widely accepted.
Clearly, Millennials dining-out habits and desires are different than that of the core gaming customer, Boomers. Boomers want to relax and enjoy their meal while, conversely, Millennials want to be served quickly “what I want, when I want and where I want.” Larger casinos that can provide more than one foodservice offering may be able to position different outlets for different consumers. Can a smaller casino, with a single foodservice outlet, meet the needs of both generations? Too many restaurants try to appeal to everyone and end up appealing to no one. If it is possible, offer two outlets: one full service targeting Boomers and one fast casual targeting Millennials.
As the time comes to renovate casino restaurants, consideration should be given to restaurant concepts that target Millennials as converting this group to gamers is important for the future success of your property. Hire Millennials to operate and market these outlets. Empower these managers with the authority to make decisions that will attract younger diners. At the same time, provide these managers with insights into the current core clientele and the importance of the older generation to the current business and let them determine how to make the foodservice outlets attractive to Boomers as well.
About the author
Jeff Dover is a Principal with fsSTRATEGY, an alliance of senior consultants focusing on business strategy support - research, analysis, innovation and implementation - for the foodservice industry. Their team has extensive consulting experience in foodservice across Canada. They also offer international experience, having worked in the United States, Australia, South America, Africa and Europe. The fsSTRATEGY team is unique in that they provide service to all foodservice sectors (restaurants, attractions, hotels and resorts, gaming establishments and institutions) and all levels of the foodservice supply chain (growers, processors, distributors and operators). For more information, visit www.fsstrategy.com.