Marketing to Millennials Made Simple: The Restaurant Edition

Marketing to millennials is imperative for restaurants who want to reach over 75 million hungry diners. Here's how to make your restaurant stand out!

Millennials have major power, and they know it. This trendy generation puts their money where their mouth is — and that includes everything from retail purchases to restaurant meals. Millennials make up 30% of the population and dine out an average of 241 times a year. It’s clear that marketing to millennials is a smart move for any bar or restaurant.

Who falls under the category of 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 24 and the older ones in their late thirties.

This means that when you market to millennials, you're not marketing to kids anymore. You're marketing to adults who have jobs and disposable incomes. There are 75 million millennials in the United States, so it's important to get your marketing strategy right. Here’s how to focus your marketing efforts on millennials. 

Make Millennials Fall in Love With Your Restaurant

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

If your restaurant’s ads promote a fun, relaxed atmosphere with a modern menu, that's what guests will expect, so keep the following in mind when planning your restaurant’s marketing strategy.

Acknowledge What Differentiates You

Millennials care about the mission and culture of your restaurant and what makes you stand out from your neighbors. A Nielsen report showed that 85% of millennials believe it’s important for companies to implement programs to improve the environment. Use your marketing to show what initiatives you’re taking to make positive change and you’ll attract more millennials to your restaurant. 

If you’re trying to create a sustainable supply chain, only using organic or locally sourced products in your meals, or any other noteworthy ventures, make sure your guests know about it. More than 66% of millennials are also willing to pay more for brands that practice sustainability, so there’s a big driver to get the word out about the good you’re doing.

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Use Tech to Complement Hospitality

Shocker – millennials like technology. 

This generation places a particular emphasis on accessible, innovative tech that streamlines the dining experience, so if you're investing in restaurant technology that makes dining with you easy and fun, your millennial guests will share that experience with others.

Social media is an extremely important marketing tool to reach the younger generations, especially as 90.4% of millennials are active on social media. The most successful restaurant marketers understand how different platforms provide visibility to different audiences, as well as the various functionalities of each platform. 

Based on Toast’s 2019 Success Report, 91% of restaurant professionals used Facebook as part of their marketing strategy and 78% used Instagram. Other popular platforms include Snapchat and Twitter, which also have their benefits when targeting millennials, so if you don’t already have accounts on these forums, sign up.

While social channels are a great place to advertise to millennials, be careful not to be too pushy with your ads. According to Statistica, 46% of millennials feel brands take advantage of them on social media, while only 36% of millennial consumers trust ads on social media. To ensure that you don’t come across as deceptive, make sure you’re advertising a realistic expectation, and give purpose behind your communication. Using social media to support your restaurant’s culture and brand is a great way to gut check that you’re presenting your company in the right light. 

Offer a Loyalty Program

Members of restaurant loyalty programs drive more sales and visit a restaurant more often than non-loyalty members. Loyalty programs can actually increase a customer’s lifetime value by 30% or more, so the more loyalty sign-ups you can get, the better.

45% of diners will select a restaurant if they belong to its loyalty program, so advertising your loyalty program is equally as important. 

Creating a loyalty program is easier than ever, as many restaurants are using digital loyalty programs rather than handing out punch cards. There’s no need for your customers to worry about losing physical reward cards; they can keep track of their loyalty points right on their phone — something that definitely appeals to millennials. Make. Things. Easy.

In fact, the top three incentives for millennials to join a loyalty program are: How quickly rewards are earned (43%), the variety of rewards offered (34%), and the ease of tracking and redeeming rewards (22%).

Try Email and Text Message Marketing

More than 93% of American millennials have a smartphone, and they're constantly using it to text their friends and check their email.

According to Toast’s 2019 Restaurant Success Report, 43% of millennials prefer email receipts, compared to 25% that prefer paper, and 31% that prefer no receipt. By offering digital receipts, you’re making the process easier for your diners, as well as opening the opportunity for you to capture a guest’s phone number or email address for your marketing.

Make the most of this list by emailing or texting updates, newsletters, or special promotions to your loyal customers. 88% of millennials said they would want to receive specials and discounts in email communication from restaurants, so this is a welcome avenue for advertising.

If digital receipts aren't one of your offerings yet, 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.

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 that 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 and Reviews

In the age of social media, everybody's talking. According to our 2019 Restaurant Success Report, millennials cite recommendations from friends and family (84%) and online reviews (57%) as their most popular ways to choose where to dine. Turning your guests into advocates for your restaurant is a free and effective way to bring in new customers.

Encouraging customers to post about their experience to their social media profiles or even write a review can expose your brand to 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.

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, so make sure your marketing efforts include tactics that speak to millennials, because this growing market share could make up the majority of your sales.

Restaurant Marketing Plan
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Restaurant Marketing Plan

Create a marketing plan that'll entice and engage the customers you want with this customizable marketing plan template and interactive calendar from Toast.

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