How to entice each generation to your restaurant
The eating habits of the UK public has changed drastically over the years with startling difference between the Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y. Generational differences exist in values, media and entertainment choices and eating trends greatly. What you eat might be a signifier of which generation you actually belong to.
When generalizing about any group, it’s first necessary to recognize that not everybody in any particular group acts like everyone else. There is often just as much variation within each group, as there is between groups. However, because generations come of age and enter the workforce around the same time, members of each generation often share similar experiences. And these shared experiences often shape perceptions and work-style.
Boomers: (Baby) Boomers so called because of the population explosion following the end of WW2. Almost exactly nine months after World War II ended, “the cry of the baby was heard across the land,” as historian Landon Jones later described the trend. More babies were born in 1946 than ever before: 3.4 million, 20 percent more than in 1945. Boomers are generally identified as those born between 1945 and 1960 and were shaped by events like Woodstock, The Cold War and youth culture and were raised in more of a family environment.
Typically, Boomers are known to favour comfort foods such as braised meats, casseroles and ice cream but many also enjoy gourmet choices such as high-quality dark chocolate and fancy cheeses. Like Millenials they are more likely to cook at home but also enjoy going out for meals as long as it’s not too contrived. They crave foods from their childhoods such as potatoes, macaroni cheese, foods made with canned tuna fish, soup and hot oatmeal. Also great fans of seafood Boomers are the traditional meat-and-potato lovers, but their tastes are anything but boring. Use a variety of herbs and bold spices to amp up the dishes on your menu, and offer an infusion of healthy salads, and you’re sure to create something that boomers will not only love, they’ll crave.
Famous Boomers: Bill Gates, Sylvester Stallone, Elton John, David Hasselhoff, Richard Gere
Generation X: Gen X’ers (1961-1980) shared similar levels of freedom as Boomers when growing up, meaning they could be out of their parents eye for long periods of time with concern or worry. A lot of X’ers were “latch key kids” in contrast, millennials, due to the technological ease of staying in contact, and changing parenting norms, often weren’t out of their parents’ sight until their teenage years. As an Xer myself I remember spending long periods of time outside playing and knocking on the doors of friends parents to see if they could “come out and play” nowadays (I already sound old) kids would simply text each other. Shaped by events such as the fall of the Berlin wall, Live Aid, 911, higher divorce rates and early mobile tech, Xers are the smallest group but still worth luring to your restaurant due to having some of the highest spending power.
Gen X is less concerned about finances when eating out than any other generation. Another reason to entice Gen X diners is that they’re typically the head of family, influencing and financing eating habits of a burgeoning group called Generation Z. In terms of food Gen X is the group that bridges the gap between millennials/Gen Y and boomers. They still enjoy comfort food but they also like a bit of adventure. Gen X are more accustomed to burgers and pizzas, hand breaded chicken and Mediterranean, Chinese, Japanese and Mexican dishes and enjoy favourite packaged cookies, ice creams, candies and snacks but are traditionally not fans of things like horchata, and lentil-quinoa burgers.
Don’t forget drinks by the way Gen Xers are big fans of craft or house made sodas especially modern takes on Lemonade
Famous Gen Xers: Adam Sandler, Nicole Kidman, Jay-Z, Ben Stiller, Gwen Stefani, Gordon Ramsay
Gen-Y/Millennials : (1981-1995) Millennials have been dubbed the ‘Foodie Generation’ They tend to engage and connect with their food. This generation craves experiences over products and with an increase in social media platforms, Millennials’ interaction and attitude towards food is becoming more noticeable and important. The most experimental of the generations in terms of trying new things and enjoying mash ups e.g Mexican dumplings and Korean BBQ; the Millennials also have left behind the old gender roles in terms of cooking and the kitchen and seek out different, ethnic and artisanal foods (40 percent like to try new kinds of ethnic cuisines and “anything new and different,” compared to 34 percent and 32 percent respectively of Gen X and Boomers) it is exceedingly important to Millenials to be able to ‘hack’ the menu creating add-ons and customize dishes to their own tastes when eating out.
With new digital and social media platforms available, food is being embraced as a vehicle for self-expression and storytelling. Before taking pictures of your meals in restaurants was frowned upon but because of this generation it has been embraced and actively encouraged. Even aside from posting pictures, Millennials are constantly “pinning” new recipes and racing to “check in” at a new restaurant.
Desserts for this generation and are also more adventurous and unique like the ‘cronut’ and the churro ice cream sandwich.
Food is very high up this gens list of priorities with 52% of Millennials ages 21-32 would rather go to a food festival than music festival and 61% of Millennials ages 21-24 would rather have dinner at a new restaurant than buy a new pair of shoes. This generation are more likely to be led by identity than anything else and have a huge sense of self and their ‘tribe’ and loyalty cards and programs are no longer as important as linking self-identity with the values of a business or restaurant. The key for retailers and restaurant operators — and anyone catering to millennials these days — is to craft experiences that recognize the pragmatic goals of youthful shoppers and diners (e.g., convenience and affordability) with their higher than average desire for fresh, healthy, enjoyable eating experiences.
Famous Gen Yers: Kim Karsashian, Emma Watson, Usain Bolt, Kate Middleton