The “M” Word: Catering to an Influential Demographic

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Gen Y, Gen Me, Gen Next — whatever you call them, there is no hotter term in the foodservice industry today than “.” Over the last five years, the “M” word, which generally refers to those born between 1982 and 1995, has taken the industry by storm.

And the millennial population is forecast to be the largest demographic in Canada by 2021. Furthermore, data from the NPD Group suggests this segment of the population currently accounts for 28 per cent of foodservice traffic in Canada, making it particularly relevant to foodservice operators.

Not only do millennials account for a large percentage of overall traffic in Canada, they also have a number of unique preferences when it comes to eating out. For example, they make up nearly 50 per cent of digital traffic at foodservice outlets and highly over-index when it comes to healthy options — often seeking out offerings naturally positioned or with “good-for-you” claims. According to the NPD Group, healthy choices are extremely important for millennials, with 25 per cent of the demographic looking for healthier menu options. But what else does this cohort want?

Convenience
It should come as no surprise that millennials consider convenience to be one of the most important attributes when it comes to foodservice. Off-premise eating is extremely popular with this demographic, accounting for 65 per cent of millennials’ restaurant visits compared to 54 per cent for non-millennials. Furthermore, millennials also over-index for eating in the car or at work. As a result, visits often include take-out, delivery or a drive-thru lane.

Quality and Food Experience
Convenience aside, millennials are also sticklers for quality and experience. These consumers demand fresher, higher-quality ingredients and often prefer ethically sourced ingredients and corporate transparency. As a result, the fast-casual segment has experienced continued growth. The fast-casual segment has honed in on healthy, customizable options coupled with a clean, modern, upscale atmosphere. As a result, we’ve seen some of the top QSR chains begin to take notice by integrating some of these fast-casual offerings into marketing and product efforts.

Technology
Millennials are much more engaged with technology than any other demographic. As a result, this group tends to over-index when it comes to utilizing and supporting the idea of technology at foodservice. A recent survey by the NPD Group found that consumers aged 18 to 24 were 91 per cent in favour of self-ordering kiosks at QSR outlets. That number was slightly lower (80 per cent) for those aged 25 to 34. Furthermore, millennials are twice as likely to post something online when it comes to their foodservice visit. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, millennials like sharing their experiences and are also highly likely to be influenced by others who do the same.

There is no denying millennials are a unique demographic and have different foodservice behaviours and expectations than previous generations. However, smart operators who are willing to re-evaluate go-to-market strategies to cater to this growing cohort can reap significant rewards.

Written By: Robert Carter 

Volume 49, Number 2

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