What Do Millennial Restaurant Customers Want? Social Responsibility

August 19, 2015 | blog | By Mike Sullivan


Are you working to connect with Millennial restaurant customers? This up-and-coming group is about to overtake Baby Boomers in sheer size; they have spending power, and they have a social conscience. This market segment is an ideal target for Challenger Brands.

Who are Millennial Restaurant Customers? Why Should I Care?

Short answer: This generation likes to eat out – a lot.

Bloomberg Business reported in April that restaurant spending had outpaced grocery spending for the first time and credited the spending and eating habits of Millennials.

Longer answer: Millennials (birth years between the early 1980s and early 2000s) are a population that’s taking over and they have been primed to vote with their dollars, making a strong connection to the brands they consume and the causes they support.

To align with this attractive market segment, you need to get to know them, what they want and how they think. Even if you’re in this generation yourself, it pays to take a closer look at the group as a whole.

Here are some facts about this market segment that you might not realize, according to Elite Daily’s Millennial Consumer Study of 2015, Millennials, also known as Gen Y:

  • make up about a fourth of the entire population
  • have $200 billion/year in buying power
  • are highly educated, career-driven, politically progressive
  • are the most culturally diverse generation to date

Perhaps one of the most interesting findings is that these young adults develop strong brand loyalty when presented with quality products and actively engaged by brands. More than half, about 60% said that they are often brand loyal. This underscores the importance of brand building and leads to the next finding about social media.

They want to engage with brands on social networks. About 62% of Millennials surveyed said that if a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer. Do you respond to your customers’ Facebook posts? Emails? Instagam pics? Tweets? Reviews? Even a brief response is better than deafening silence and lets your customer know you’re engaged and listening. These customers also check blogs, Yelp! and other review sites before going out, so stay on top of social media monitoring and diplomatically (but briefly) respond to any negative reviews.

They expect brands to give back to society. A whopping 75% of Millennials surveyed said that they care about whether a company practices social responsibility instead of just making a profit. This socially responsible generation is fed up with the corporate greed of the Enron era they watched growing up and are still recovering in the aftermath of the financial crisis. They love brands that support their local communities and would rather purchase from them than competitors. They want to feel a part of the greater good and if they feel that supporting your business helps you help others, you will win their loyalty.

Eating the big fish

Tips for making a connection:

Spotlight Social Responsibility: Millennials are hyper aware of social and global responsibility. Emphasize your use of organic, hormone-free, grass-fed and locally sourced menu items. They will expect you to recycle, so put less emphasis on that.Conserve is a free program offered by the National Restaurant Association that offers great tips and best practices on how to “go green.”

Something New: Millennials enjoy being in on the latest trend. Offer samples of your newest menu items and to tap into the generations’ tech-attachment, have a QR code handy to direct them to a brief survey to get their feedback.

Convey Warmth: Consider a more casual, first-person, anecdotal approach when communicating with Millennials. Keep the messaging warm and personal, yet clear and direct. Tap into to internal staff as a sounding board for crafting the ideas and phrasing.

You need’t worry that by targeting the Millennials that you’ll be leaving your other customers cold. The National Restaurant Association’s 2015 Food Trends are right in line with the desires of this generation – locally sourced menu items, natural ingredients and environmental sustainability.


Define Your Values, Communicate Them

As a Challenger Brand, targeting this market segment gives you a prime opportunity to build your Lighthouse Brand identity around key social values so you can begin to clearly and consistently communicate these company values to your employees and customers.


Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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