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Marketing to Millennials Made Simple: The Restaurant Edition

Posted by AJ Beltis on 11/8/17 8:00 PM in Restaurant Marketing

6 minute read Print

marketing to millennials

With over 75 million millennials in the United States, marketing to millennials is a smart move for any bar or restaurant. 

What are millennials? The common consensus is that the millennial generation consists of people born between 1981 and 1996. This puts the very youngest of millennials at the age of 22 and the older ones in their late thirties. 

What does this mean for your restaurant? It means that if you're marketing to millennials, you're not marketing to kids anymore. You're marketing to adults with jobs and disposable incomes. And when 54% of millennials go out to eat at least three times a week, it's time to get this marketing right. 

Step 1: Make Your Restaurant Millennial-Friendly

Before you get to the actual marketing, you have to make sure your restaurant lives up to the promises of its messaging.

If your ads to millennials promote a fun, relaxed restaurant with a modern atmosphere, that's what guests will expect – so keep the following in mind when running your restaurant. 

Millennials Like Technology

Shocker – millennials like technology!

Data collected from the 2017 Restaurant Technology Report found that 77% of millennials say restaurant technology improves their dining experience. This generation places a particular emphasis on accessible, innovative tech that streamlines the dining experience. 


Some stats from the data include the following:

  • Millennials are the most common users of ordering ahead through restaurant apps and online ordering aggregate sites like Grubhub. 
  • 49% of millennials prefer digital receipts (text or email) to paper ones, while just 33% of those outside the millennial generation opt for digital receipts.
  • A majority of millennials appreciate innovative restaurant technology like kiosks (54% approval) and server handheld tablets (63% approval).
  • 60% of millennials will sometimes or always use mobile pay when available in a restaurant.
  • Millennials are most likely to pay with a credit or debit card. 69% pay with card for low-priced items and 91% do the same for higher-priced items. 

If millennials are not able to order online, show up to find a cash-only establishment, or have to wait around for their check or receipt, they won't feel like the dining experience is catered to them at all. 

And we all know how special millennials like to feel.

Millennials Are Environmentally- and Health-Conscious

The National Restaurant Association found that millennials are searching far and wide for restaurants that serve local, fresh, and healthy food. 

74% of millennials are more likely to dine at a restaurant with healthy menu options, while 70% value local food sourcing when choosing a restaurant.

restaurant marketing to millennials

Want more millennials in your restaurant? It might be time to cut out the frozen or processed food and make way for more fresh alternatives. While this can cost more in inventory, it all works out in the end – diners are willing to pay more for local food.

Millennials Just Wanna Have Fun

Millennials want to spend their money on an experience – not just a meal.

Data collected from the 2017 Restaurant Technology Report revealed that the millennial generation places more importance on the ambiance and atmosphere of a restaurant than any other generation. This means that restaurants marketing to millennials must differentiate their experience

If your restaurant offers the same menu as three other places in the area and has the same interior design as 95% of the country's similar restaurant concepts, your restaurant won't be perceived as unique, exclusive, or special. Millennials won't go out of their way for that. 

Step 2: Marketing the Restaurant

Once you've made your restaurant more millennial-friendly, you can start marketing to them. Here are five ways to market to millennials.

Social Media Marketing

social media for restaurants

You've heard of the importance of restaurant social media marketing time and time again, I'm sure. You probably have a restaurant Facebook page, and you may have even sprung for Twitter. 

But let's talk about two tools you should be using to market to millennials that you may not have started on – Snapchat and Instagram.

These two visual social media platforms are more popular with younger millennials than sites like Facebook. Twenty-somethings aren't averse to choosing their next meal based on a picture they see on their phone. If you don't have accounts on these platforms for your restaurant, take a few minutes and get them started today. 

Get a Loyalty Program

Members of restaurant loyalty programs drive more sales and visit a restaurant more often than non-loyalty members. The more loyalty sign-ups you can get, the better. 

This is particularly relevant for millennials since modern loyalty programs are digital, which means punch cards (i.e. "Buy 9, get the tenth free") are simply not how restaurant loyalty is done anymore. It's beneficial for restaurants too, as diners who are part of a digital loyalty program spend 39% more than non-loyalty members. 

Try Email and Text Message Marketing

Over 95% of millennials have a smartphone, and they're constantly using it to text their friends and check their email. 

Remember the stat about half of millennials preferring digital receipts? If your restaurant POS offers this feature, take advantage of it. When someone enters their phone number or email address after paying for their meal, you have that information stored into a giant customer database you can use for your marketing.

millennials and smartphones

Leverage this list by emailing or texting updates, newsletters, or special promotions to your loyal customers. 

If digital receipts aren't one of your offerings yes, don't fret. You can always resort to the tried and true business card drop and build a manual list of contact info – though this will involve a bit more busy work typing in all that information. 

List on Google My Business

With 85% of millennials searching for a restaurant while on-the-go with their phones, your restaurant needs to be optimized for search. 

Google designed their search page results to favor businesses who regularly update their information. Because of this, you may not be the first result if someone searches "restaurants near me," even if they're right in front of your store. 

To rank highly on Google for local search, make sure your restaurant Google My Business page has the following:

  • Verified locations and phone number
  • Accurate hours
  • Photos
  • Follow-ups to customer reviews

For more information on what Google prioritizes in local search, click here

Word of Mouth & Reviews

In the age of social media, everybody's talking. Turning your guests into advocates for your restaurant is a free and effective way to bring in new customers. 

restaurant millennial marketing

Encouraging customers to post about their experience to their social media profile or even write a review can expose your brand to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of new faces depending on the size of their following.

Even without technology, you should never underestimate the power of a friend's recommendation. Peer-to-peer conversations and suggestions from coworkers or classmates can lead to new guests through word-of-mouth restaurant marketing.

Marketing Your Restaurant Millennials

We know millennials are brand-loyal, stay attached to their phones, love to share their experiences, and will spend a good amount of their income on food.

Restaurants perfectly fit that lifestyle.

If your business hasn't taken steps to appeal to millennials and market to them, you're missing out on a growing market share that could make up the majority of your sales.

What are you waiting for? Though they'd never admit it, millennials aren't getting any younger. 

Is there a section in your 2018 restaurant marketing plan about millennials?
If not, download a free restaurant plan template and factor it in for next year's success!


toast restaurant management blog

Written by: AJ Beltis

AJ Beltis managed Toast's blog and content library for more than two years. He also started the company's restaurant success podcast, The Garnish. When he's not writing, he's probably watching one of his favorite movies for the 30th time or planning his next road trip. He loves to travel and experience all the different kinds of toast the world has to offer.

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