The millennial market isn’t something fast casual restaurant operators can afford to ignore. Not only do these consumers in the age range from their 20s through mid-30s represent 25 percent of the U.S. population, according to a report by Morgan Stanley Research, they make up 51 percent of fast casual restaurant customers. To attract and retain millennial customers’ business, fast casual restaurants need to meet the demands of this large demographic in the following ways:
• Fast ordering capabilities. Millennials are often strapped for time. They want to do everything at lightning speed, including ordering and picking up food. When it comes to takeout, meeting time-crunched millennials’ expectations include enabling customers to order and pay for their food before they arrive. Because millennials are so attached to their mobile devices, introducing a mobile app or mobile responsive online ordering so they can use their smartphones to place orders and complete payments is the preferred way to get the job done. To fulfill orders faster, it’s a good idea to invest in technology such as a kitchen display system (KDS) that permit orders to be transmitted straight to the kitchen to shave minutes off prep time.
• Convenient pickup and delivery. Fast casual restaurant operators can make order pickup more convenient by setting up a curbside pickup area or designating a counter specifically for takeout orders. Offering delivery, whether handled by your staff or a third-party delivery service, may also provide an option that appeals to your millennial customers.
• Healthful options. Increasingly, millennials are demanding healthier alternatives to traditional fast casual restaurant fare. Adding healthful options to your menu should increase your restaurant’s appeal to the millennial market. Consider new menu items that are grilled or broiled rather than deep-fried and that use organic ingredients.
• Photogenic food and storytelling. Since they were kids, millennials have been taking pictures of their food and posting them to social media. Whether your customers continue this fad or not, they still expect food to be picture perfect. Pay attention to presentation to impress this segment of your customer base.
Also remember that to millennials, a fast casual restaurant — or any restaurant, for that matter — isn’t merely a place to eat. Engage these customers through storytelling on social media, signage, and even your menus. These stories can be based on a variety of themes, such as the origin of a particular menu item, the food preferences of a certain staff member, or how your restaurant played a special part in the life of a customer.
• Sustainability and environmental friendliness. Millennial consumers’ concern for the environment makes it important for them to give their business to restaurants that use locally sourced ingredients, takeout containers manufactured from recycled materials, and energy-conserving appliances and technology.
Fast casual restaurant operators that make a concerted effort to provide the experiences millennial generation customers are looking for stand the strongest chance to cultivate and maintain the loyalty of this massive demographic. They will also be the most likely to grow their businesses and not become a part of a passing generation of businesses unable to adapt.