10 Millennial Restaurant Dining Trends

How Millennials Are Changing Restaurants

Millenials dining out
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Finally surpassing baby boomers in buying power, the millennial generation is expected to become the largest U.S. demographic in 2019, according to population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau. Composed of people in their early 20s to mid-30s, millennials are rapidly reshaping American business.

For the restaurant industry, millennials have their own distinct dining preferences. From the type of food they eat to how to market to them, these 10 millennial dining trends are changing the way we eat out.

Seeking Out a Unique Dining Experience

More and more people are thought to be looking for food with a story. This is especially true of millennials who value individuality, uniqueness, and adventure. Dining out is a way to experience food from all over the world and to share that experience with friends.

The Local Foods Movement

While millennials are often looking for adventures, they also value local foods. Whether locally grown produce, locally raised beef, artisan or handcrafted bread, cheese, or beer, millennials want to know where their food and drink is coming from and how the food they eat is harvested. They are also conscious of the fact that buying local keeps money in their communities.

Interest in local foods has spawned the farm-to-table movement in many areas. Farm-to-table encourages consumers and businesses to minimize the distance food travels before being eaten. For example, most fresh fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles before reaching their final destination. For millennials, farm-to-table is an important consideration when choosing what and where to eat. 

Communal Dining

A number of millennials view dining as a social event and prefer communal tables when eating out. Communal dining is something to think about when planning your restaurant seating and dining room.

Food Trucks With Unique Menus

It is no coincidence that the popularity of food trucks coincided with the rise of millennial diners. Food trucks offer unique foods in a fun and often social setting.

Affordable Food

While millennials care about the environment, local food and general society good, they also love a bargain. According to information from "Marketing to Millennials: Deciphering the Enigma Generation," 35 percent of millennials would compromise their values (a little bit) to save some money.

But millennials aren’t cheap. They expect good, healthy food at reasonable prices. This is a distinctive change from the super-sized, all-you-can-eat sales tactics of the 1990s and early 2000s and has spurred tremendous growth in the fast-casual restaurant sector, with chains like Chipotle, Panda Express and Panera Bread.

The Importance of Convenience

Is this the end of Starbucks? According to the National Restaurant Association, millennials prefer fast food, deli food, and pizza, over coffee and casual or fine dining.  

Customization and Choice

Menu customization is a big expectation for millennials. They value choice and will not be happy with a one-size-fits-all menu. 

Healthy Foods and Eating Organic

According to a report from the Nielsen Perishables Group, 30 percent of millennials eat foods that are certified as organic foods. There is increasing evidence to show that the American consumer is more concerned with healthy eating than ever before.

Meanwhile, in its National Household Survey, the National Restaurant Association reported that 81 percent of adults polled thought there were more healthy options available on restaurant menus than in the previous two years of the study.  

Connecting Through Technology 

It's important for restaurants to utilize social media and mobile technology to engage millennial customers. According to data from the YAYA Connection, 65 percent of social media conversations are about where to eat out. 

Small Batch Alcohol

Just like local foods, small, handmade batches of alcohol are widely popular with millennials. Chipotle and Smashburger are both adding a line of craft beers to their fast-casual menus in certain markets.

Bottom Line

Millennials are rapidly changing the way we dine. Their values of societal and environmental good, coupled with a thriftiness toward money are creating a new kind of restaurant experience that focuses on sustainability, local foods, healthy options and bargain prices.