Today’s college and university students are savvier than ever when it comes to their diets. Thanks to the immediacy of social media and the internet, Millennials have endless options and information available at their fingertips. How can your restaurant separate itself from the competition and increase its chances of buy-in from a group that eats out more frequently than all other generations, regardless of their income? Understanding Millennials’ dining behaviours and preferences is an excellent place to start. Below we explore five A+ back to school strategies that will attract busy students and situate your operation as the go-to spot to kick back and relax after class.
1. Make menu diversity a priority.
When it comes to creating and marketing dishes to Millennials, think as-close-to-natural-as-possible, sustainable, local and seasonal. Roughly one third of this generation prioritizes healthy attributes in the food they buy, and 29% said they’re willing to pay more for them. Millennials are also more likely to approach dining out as an adventure and tend to seek out ethnic or artisanal offerings. This group’s desire for new and novel culinary experiences is underscored by the finding that a whopping 40% self-reported that they order something different every time they visit the same restaurant. The solution is in limited time offerings, specials and smaller tasting menus.
2. Provide nutritional information.
A 2014 study conducted by The Hartman Group found that 51% of Millennials would like more ingredient and nutritional information provided on menus, and 48% would like more menu options to meet their health and dietary needs. Add a basic nutritional breakdown of your offerings to your menus, menu boards and website. If you operate in Ontario, be aware that as of January 1, 2017, the Healthy Menu Choices Act will come into force, and restaurant chains and foodservice providers with 20 or more locations must display the number of calories for each variety, flavour and size of food and drink items offered. In addition to these changes, ensure all staff members are well versed in the ingredients used in each dish. Establish processes for protecting visitors from allergens, and create allergy-related communication guidelines between front of house and back of house.
3. Deliver an experience.
A staggering 87% of Millennials will splurge on a nice meal, even when money is tight. Attract students by offering more than just an incredible meal; offer a splurge-worthy experience perfect for socializing after a study session or test. Shareable dishes like bruschetta, flatbreads, charcuterie boards and sliders enhance interaction between guests during meals, and work perfectly with the communal dining table format that 55% of Millennials prefer. Smaller, sharable dishes such as these work beautifully any time of day – an important point to consider, given that Millennials eat out during off-peak day parts twice as often as non-Millennial generations.
4. Offer cost savings and rewards.
The high cost of pursuing a post-secondary education can place a financial strain on students. Increase traffic to your restaurant by running promotions and offering rewards that increase the likelihood of cash-strapped students visiting. 74% of Millennials report email as their preferred communications vehicle with brands, so consider emailing students coupons, an exclusive birthday freebie, or promoting a limited time offer group discount or buy-one-get-one deal – the possibilities are endless!
5. Maximize your reach through social media marketing.
Effective marketing requires knowing your audience. Millennials are constantly plugged-in and rely heavily on technology, making a strong social media presence mandatory for any business trying to earn their business and loyalty. Share quality photos of your food and beverages often. Encourage visitors to check-in at your location on Instagram and Facebook so their images from your establishment are shared among their networks, as well. Monitor and engage your social media communities daily to acknowledge visitors, answer questions, and re-share customer posts.
What strategies will your restaurant or foodservice location undertake this school year to attract this powerful group who dines out at least once per week? Be at the top of your class by focusing on menu diversity, quality ingredients, a social atmosphere and strategic communications and promotions.