What Restaurants Need to Know to Win With Millennial Parents…and Their Kids

Posted by: Leah Swartz

At our annual conference in September, Share.Like.Buy, we will be diving into major food trends affecting the millennial generation. More specifically however, are the one in four millennials who have made the leap to parenthood and how food brands can approach marketing to a new generation of parents.

Millennial parents are quickly becoming a major force to be reckoned with. Already one in four millennials are parents and the way they are raising their children is changing the game for major brands today. As a subgroup of the incredibly influential millennial generation, these new parents are forcing food brands to rethink their strategies in regard to marketing to families. As long as restaurants exist, families will use them as a means to get out of the house and indulge in a mini-vacation. While the fact that families’ love eating out crosses generational boundaries, the ways in which restaurants can grab hold of and maintain the business of these families is perpetually changing.

According to Service Management Group research, when deciding where to go eat, millennial parents are more satisfied with their experience when they let their children pick the location. In fact, millennial parents would rather have their children pick the location than decide themselves. Of millennial parents surveyed, 60 percent said they were highly satisfied when allowing their children to pick where to eat. Juxtaposed to non-millennial parents, of which just 53 percent consider themselves highly satisfied when allowing their children to determine where to eat. This aligns with the changing family mindset that millennials are influencing today. Different from previous generations, millennial parents are more likely to include their children in the household decision making process.

With more millennials venturing into parenthood everyday, it is important for restaurants to develop a firm understanding of what it takes to become a family favorite. The key to making it onto the list of favorite family restaurants is simply starting with the whole family, not just the individual. Below are three lessons for restaurants focused on accomplishing just that.

  1. It’s more than just the food

For millennial parents, dining out is not just about the food. It is about the overall lifestyle a restaurant or food brand promotes. Millennial parents have a strong understanding of what is and what is not healthy. As more brands are embracing authentic messaging, food labels, product packaging and menu lists must provide more transparency in regards to what the meal contains. Millennials favor wholesome, antibiotic free ingredients for both themselves and their children. As new foods are emerging, gluten free, organic, GMO-free to name a few, millennial are more likely to be on board and make sure their families are as well. Restaurants that cater to this preference will up their chances of gaining the business of millennial-lead families

  1. Balance your flavor offerings

Millennials are always interested in trying new flavor profiles. Spicy, zesty and exotic flavors tend to win with this cohort of young parents. Restaurants should take advantage of their willingness to go on these flavor adventures by incorporating more and more exotic recipes. Millennials are also highly influenced by what they see in their surroundings. For example trendy cooking shows, Instagram and Pinterest greatly influence the flavors a millennial seeks out. Kids, on the other hand aren’t as predictable. Have you tried to get a four year old to branch out beyond mac and cheese or chicken fingers? Not easy. With this in mind, it is important that restaurant brands have a wide scale when it comes to flavor. From very basic to wild and exotic, restaurant brands today must have a balance in order to win with the entire family.

  1. Make kid-creations easy

It is no secret that customizable brands are winning with millennials (look no further than Chipotle and Starbucks for proof). Millennials constantly seek out ways to make products more unique for them and are willing to pay the premium for brands that follow through. Especially when it comes to menu items. Think about top fast casual brands that are fully integrating with customization mindset. Children have grown up in an era where the tools they need to make decisions for themselves are readily available. They want to excel in their differences and look for brands to give them exactly what they want – that means at the dinner table, too.

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About Leah Swartz

Leah worked on the FutureCast team as a Senior Content Specialist. Her articles about Millennial trends and engagement tactics have been featured in PSFK, Forbes, The New York Times, American Business Journals and more. She...See Leah's full bio.

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