How Restaurants Can Feed Millennial Curiosity
Millennials have attachment issues.
Next to GenXers and Baby Boomers, researchers tell us millennials don’t feel as attached to their jobs, are less likely to demonstrate brand loyalty, and much less likely to identify with traditional religious groups or political parties. So what do those that are afraid of tradition and attachment actually want and desire? Discovery, experimentation and something new. In a restaurant setting, we couldn’t ask for better guests.
As restaurant professionals, the most important thing when taking care of a guest is to listen. Once someone walks through our doors and into our home, we are looking to take care of them. If someone is in the mood for hot cocoa, it doesn’t matter how amazing our iced tea is. What we see, both empirically and through numerous studies, is that millennials are not attached to any one path. When ordering a drink, they are the most likely group to ask what we (the staff) are most interested in. While this excites lots of bartenders and sommeliers, it’s a daunting task.
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Designing a Beverage Program with Millennials in Mind
When designing our beverage program, it is important to have diversity in order to best accommodate millennials. If they have something new and exciting on visit one, they aren’t going to simply re-order it the next time they are in. They will be seeking something new and exciting on all subsequent visits.
Sometimes they want to explore different sectors of the beverage program and other times they want to dive deep. If you introduced them to a mono-varietal, wild agave mezcal on visit one, there’s a good chance they are going to want to try other mezcals on visit two. If a millennial is introduced to a great saison on visit one, they very likely to want to explore other saisons on subsequent visits. We accommodate millennials by offering diversity and constantly rotating our selections.
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Perhaps the greatest aspect of millennials’ willingness to try new things is the opportunity that it creates for us to really match a beverage choice with their food. When a millennial is simply interested in what beverage choices excite us the most, the most logical follow up is to ask what they are eating. We view our beverage program as a pantry full of condiments that we can use to enhance the food. Millennials aren’t just open to trying new things within a comfortable segment of the beverage program, they are very open to almost anything we suggest. If we listen to what millennials want and guide them correctly with the first drink recommendation, then trust is established and they become very open to further recommendations.
The desire to try new things really puts a lot of pressure on us to stay current and taste lots and lots of product. It’s important that we honor that trust which they give us. Diversity of selection for diversity’s sake alone isn’t a well thought out beverage program. It also has to have a place at the table with our food. Also, it has to be well made and taste great! With more than 5,000 small and independent breweries in the country, it’s easy to feature local beer. The challenge is to identify the best example of each category/style being produced in the state.
Millennials like a good underdog. Whether it be in politics or choice of beer, they are rooting for the little guy that bucks the establishment. Without the little guys (think of all the small, start-up breweries in your home state), we wouldn’t have the diversity of choices we have today. The little guy gives millennials hope.
Millennials have a higher unemployment rate than any other working-age generation (researchers say much of it is “willful unemployment”). Millennials strongly desire a freelance work schedule to come and go as they please. The success stories of those who left the traditional workplace to establish a craft brewery, a distillery or a small wine label excite them. It gives them hope in the “old” American dream of entrepreneurialism as opposed to their parents’ dream of a steady ‘nine-to-five’ and a good 401K, which seems long dead and unappealing to this generation. After all, isn’t going out with friends and family to imbibe about release? Letting go of worry? Finding solace and comfort in good company and conversation? A success story about a couple leaving their comfortable 9-5s and putting everything on the line to start a craft brewery offers hope and inspiration.
Feed Their Curiosity
The last and perhaps most important aspect of serving millennials is education. Their curious minds retain a lot of information and it’s vital that we train our team to provide the correct information. On a basic level, we have to be prepared to know what everything tastes like, accurately describe it to our guests and pair it with the food. When it comes to millennials though, the conversation often goes deeper. From the exact production techniques of any beverage to the sustainability of wild agave mezcals, we have to be prepared to educate and converse with our guests. The only way to get there is through rigorous education: daily pre-service meetings, weekly classes, and non-stop tasting.
Millennials get a bad rap, but they are merely a product of their time. As the traditional economy and politics of decades past offer less promise for this younger generation, they are forced to think outside the box and adapt. Despite diminishing job prospects and political turmoil, millennials remain hopeful. They are liberated by their lack of attachment and the necessity to seek new paths. In the restaurant setting, they are curious, educated guests that have great appreciation for food, wine, beer & spirits. They keep us honest and drive our team to learn more. Their curiosity has helped propel the restaurant industry to the heights it has achieved today.