How Restaurants Can Engage Millennials

Millennials. There isn’t a week that goes by without another study released that dissects how this generation thinks, acts and socializes. As confident, optimistic multitaskers, this group of 77 million consumers in the United States and more than 9 million in Canada was raised with technology, and 53 percent would rather give up their sense of smell than their smartphones. A vast digital fluency isn’t the only thing this group has in common; as they age, they’re gaining some serious spending power. Recent Nielsen research found that 20 percent of Millennials dine out at least once a week, and when they do, they prefer variety and lower prices. Fast food, deli food and pizzerias are Millennials’ main haunts, but their adventurous mindset can draw them into ethnic or foreign cuisines, too.

You don’t need to change your menu to appeal to this generation. All it takes is a little digital know-how and a staff that provides a quick and easy experience for these on-the-go diners. Here are a few tips to get noticed by these smartphone-wielding consumers:

Get Found

If you type your restaurant name in Google, how quickly can you locate your operating hours? How easily can you find your specials? Millennials expect instant information. A recent survey shows 68 percent of Millennials are likely to go somewhere else if a restaurant website does not have information such as an address, phone number, reviews, menu and photos. Beyond updating your website to include these details, make sure popular search engines like Google and Bing are listing your restaurant on a map. By claiming your business on these platforms, you can jump to the top of an internet search and help this right-now generation with the information they need to get to your dining room, stat.

Get Virtual

Millennials know technology like the back of their hand. And like the ever-changing digital landscape, they can be a moving target. Keep your restaurant top-of-mind by creating a digital extension of your physical space. Millennials crave social connectedness, so give them the opportunity to forge a relationship with your business outside your four walls. Offer free wireless internet so your guests can share their experience with their friends. Text message marketing campaigns and “check-in” specials through location-based networks like Foursquare help Millennials include you in their online ecosystem. At the end of the day, this generation is looking to make connections – with you, with other customers and with each other. Build loyalty by giving them more opportunities to do just that.

Get Social

Millennials appear to be more influenced by word-of-mouth when making purchase decisions than Baby Boomers. They often read reviews before visiting a new restaurant, or even just ask their online networks for recommendations. Encourage diners to post reviews about your establishment on popular sites. Smashburger, for example, asks diners to submit a review via Yelp, Urbanspoon, Citysearch or Zagat. But be ready to address everything: the good, the bad and the ugly. Get in the habit of reading and responding to customers, and using feedback to make a better dining experience for your guests. The Millennial generation likes to be heard, so thanking them for their comments and encouraging an ongoing conversation can go a long way in building lasting loyalty.

Whether we’re ready or not, Millennials are the future of dining. By keeping in tune with their attitudes and preferences towards dining, you can show your dedication to exceeding their expectations – even if all they’re looking for is a quick, low-price sandwich.