Here come the Millennials – will you give them the “green” light?

Here come the Millennials – will you give them the “green” light?

By Anthony Anton, President and CEO

I had a conversation with a Bellevue franchisee last month about how the economy is going for his business. And he said something very interesting:

“You know, the corporate office has been telling us for a decade that ‘The Millennials are coming! The Millennials are coming!’ Then they were too young to buy anything. Next, the recession delayed their entrance into the workforce with any major impact. But this past six months, you walk the restaurant and you really can see that the

Millennials are finally here in force, and I feel that in spite of plenty of the warnings, we haven’t made the adjustment we need to be ’their restaurant.’”

I don’t have any data to back up his reflection, but his comment didn’t surprise me. We have been warned that the massive bubble entering the restaurant consumer world has a different approach than its predecessor generations.

I have read several reports on the millennial consumer, and while many have slight variations most have six common traits:

  • Tech-savvy
  • Trust word of mouth and friends/distrust brands and mouthpieces
  • Value ”value” over being cheap
  • Speed matters
  • Social interactions matter (in person or digital)
  • Feel empowered to make the world and environment a better place

While many of these are difficult, if not strategic, and take time to adapt, the last one is easy if not just plain smart.

Restaurants are the heart of our communities, and as such, we are often the front lines of social change. Consumers spend more time inside our industry than any other, and the small steps toward a better environment do get noticed, sustain loyalty and can build a connection to your dominant customer base for the next 20 years.

Take one step toward a better environment this month. It can be as simple as only serving water upon request, which reduces water waste and the number of dishwasher loads, to something as big going to composting or replacing old refrigeration systems. If you are looking for ideas, go to our Conserve website, which WRA members and the University of Washington helped the National Restaurant Association develop.

When you do, embrace the other traits of Millennials and post it on social sites, engage your staff to be prepared to talk about it, and place note card on tables or on bill statement talking about it. Survey your customers on what your next step should be so they feel a part of you.

Your next customer is here. Your approach to sustainability could be a key to sustaining customer loyalty.

(Source: Washington Restaurant Magazine, April 2015)