Restaurants in the Age of Millennials

Every generation makes its mark on the world, including the restaurant world. Millennials, that often notorious and misunderstood group of folks born between 1981 and 1996 have taken it on the chin. Yet overall, they are globally and community-focused, digitally savvy, deeply curious, imaginative, and highly adaptive to change — all great qualities. What’s more, they’re now the largest age group in the U.S. So, what’s that doing to restaurants?

Millennial Vibes and Value

Liveaboutdotcom says, “Millennials are rapidly changing the way we dine. Their values of societal and environmental good, coupled with a thriftiness toward money are creating a new kind of restaurant experience that focuses on sustainability, local foods, healthy options, and bargain prices.”
Which means, they’re not eating out like their parents do.

It’s said that you can feel a Millennial-focused restaurant when you walk in. The script is flipped. Millennials have a new checklist for judging quality, one that centers on an exceptional experience. They’re not impressed by the fancy French creds of the chef. Philadelphia Magazine says, “The dining room at Royal Izakaya is nearly pitch-black, with 90’s Pokémon projected on the walls. That’s just the right vibe for high-end Japanese food, at least from a millennial’s perspective: stripped-down, nostalgia-laden elegance.”

Creating a Restaurant Millennials Like

If your menu calls out integrity like no GMOs, no trans fats, no corn syrup, or gluten-free ingredients, it’s a win. Sustainably raised foods get noticed. Less grease gets the nod too. They’re also adventurous eaters, willing to try a new ethnic dish without hesitation. Maybe that’s because they’ve seen food celebrated on social media and watched more food shows on cable TV than any other generation. They’ve been raised as foodies.

Juxtaposing the everyday with highbrow and nostalgic bites with international flavors is the secret recipe for many who see success with this age group. A fair number of successful ventures started out as pop-ups or food trucks. It’s a great way to test an edgier concept and fine-tune it.

Millennials as Restaurant Staff

To attract Millennial guests, it makes sense to represent them on your staff. You’ll want to give them input on decisions and create a spirit of collaboration. Many want to feel like they’re making a difference and have a pathway to bigger roles within an organization. So, changing things up and keeping the culture fun also makes a difference. Flexibility is a big deal because having a good work/life balance matters. “Millennials are about serving and helping one another for the greater good…And if you’re transparent about standards and expectations, they’ll hold themselves accountable,” according to QSR Magazine.

Design Counts

Some Millennial restaurants are building three-level concepts to create a part night club and part-restaurant vibe. They’re turning to high concept, Hollywood-style interior designers too. Restauranteurs who know how to create a feast for the eyes will do well.

Millennials also love outdoor seating. Think about how edgy a patio can be for these foodies. Is there a water feature to add? Neon lights? Upcycled furniture to incorporate? Or maybe you want to show off herbs grown for the kitchen on the patio. From fabric to color and patio screens, whatever customization is needed, you can get a one-of-a-kind-look. Whether it’s hiding an ugly view or shielding guests from a tough rain storm, great design inspires Millennials to hang out. After all, what’s more fun than eating outside? If you’d like to brainstorm, our design experts translate imagination into high-quality materials that hold up longer. So, play with it and take things in a new direction to welcome in the new majority.