How to Make Restaurants & Menus Appeal to Millennials

By Elizabeth Blau Founder & CEO, Blau & Associates | August 12, 2018

As the fastest growing consumer group today, Millennials are becoming increasingly more influential in the way we serve our guests. One central theme that seems to have encompassed this generation is the need for healthier food and fresher options. A trend toward purchasing better foods has spread greatly among Millennials. Previous generations used to be concerned strictly with low-calorie and low-fat foods, relying heavily on fad diets and pseudo-scientific approaches to health, including no carb, Paleo, Atkins, Cabbage soup and South Beach to name a few. This generation, however, are making their purchasing decisions based on a holistic and lifestyle changing approach to their wellbeing.

Millennials are focused more on eating foods that are genuinely good for both themselves and the society around them. This includes foods that are organic, carbon-neutral, trade-sourced locally and fairly, and those that are prepared by independent artisans. Instead of just counting calories, diners are analyzing the carbon footprint that a meal will have. We have embraced this trend in our own restaurants. As lovers of our planet and promoters of farm to table dining, I am thrilled that being ethical is now cooler than ever.

Additionally, this generation has been taking a more planetary view on health. Healthy choices also mean sustainable and ethical sourcing. Being "good for the consumer" is no longer enough as today's socially conscious population demands options that are also beneficial for the planet and our society. Restaurants that source locally are no longer a rare find. Instead, they are becoming increasingly popular as environmental awareness goes from being a differentiator to a responsibility-something we should applaud as we look to the longevity of our futures.

Millennials' tastes are also changing. Due to a rising interest in everything "foodie"-largely caused by an influx of data thanks to the booming popularity of media outlets, culinary focused apps and websites such as the Food Network, Instagram and Opentable-Millennials are becoming more adventurous and demanding than ever. Today, cuisine is at an all-time height of popularity, and it is cool to know everything about food. Consumers search out authenticity over corporate, variety over mundane, and artisanal products over the mass-produced. They see it not only as a means to experience more, but as a reason to.

With this wealth of culinary knowledge literally at our fingertips, it is no wonder that Millennials-who are intrinsically more tech-savvy than previous generations-are leading the quest for increased adventure, variety and novelty. At a moments notice, we can access articles telling us the best things to put in our bodies, as well as the dangers of traditionally consumed mass-produced products. At the same time, everyone can watch their favorite chef on the Internet at the click of a button and learn how to make the best foods for themselves at home. It is easier than ever to become creative and informed about how we should feed ourselves.

This is not a bad thing-in fact, it is amazing. It helps push forward farms and other excellent small producers to a national level, allowing for their products to not only be more available to consumers on a retail level, but to restaurants on a wholesale basis as well. Better products used in our kitchens translates to better dishes being delivered to the tables of our diners.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.