In the United States, there are more than 75 million people who are born between 1978 and 2000. Everyone could benefit from marketing to this generation, popularly called “Generation Y.” These young people eat out and drink alcohol outside the home more often than other age groups.1 In particular, young adults tend to enjoy quick-service or casual full-service restaurants.2 So, if you are running a quick-service restaurant or have a hip, fun concept, you should make sure to take this demographic into account.
The best way to determine if your marketing, design and operational strategies appeal to young people is simply to ask teenagers or young adults what they think. Ask for specific suggestions on what is going well and what could be improved.
Young people are communicating with each other digitally. Implement a direct email and text message marketing campaign. Just be careful not to annoy your young customers. Make sure they opt to receive the promotions.
Any restaurant that hopes to attract young people should have a website. Generation Y is also known as the “Net Generation” because young people grew up with the web and are more internet savvy than previous generations.
You do not want to be perceived as cheap, but your menu items need to be a good value. Teenagers and young adults are not necessarily penny-pinchers, but because they generally have limited disposable income, they want to feel that what they buy is really worth the price. Consider implementing special promotions for young people who show student ID, like student discounts, free cover or a free drink.
Young people today are very independent, and they do not want to feel pressured. Present your marketing messages in an educational or entertaining form, rather than as a traditional sales pitch. Be as honest as possible. If young people suspect that you are exaggerating or over-promising, your advertising will have the opposite of the desired effect.
Enlist a few students or young adults with lots of friends and social networking potential to be part of your marketing team and spread the word about your restaurant.
By hosting concerts, movies, bar trivia, karaoke or other events, you can attract students and teens and give them a good reason to keep coming back. The more events you host, the more likely your restaurant will become a “hotspot” for dining out, even on nights without events.
Your biggest risk in marketing to young people is to overdo it. The last thing you should do is try to write your marketing promotions in “teen” speak. Marketing to young people is a lot like middle school. The best way to seem “cool” is to remain “real” and low key. Let your restaurant speak for itself.
If your restaurant has its own Facebook, MySpace or Evite account, you can use it to inform customers of new promotions, special events and any changes in your menu selection or services.
With the prevalence of iPods and music sharing in their culture, young people have more independent tastes in music than previous generations. That means they are more easily annoyed or offended by music they dislike. If you hope to attract a broad range of this group, it is best to choose music that is neither too radical nor too conservative. Avoid music that tends to polarize people. It is generally safe to stick with alternative and classic rock and pop. On the other hand, if you have a specific target group in mind, choose music that matches their demographic.
1Roger Fields, Restaurant Success by the Numbers (Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press, 2007)
2Jacquelyn Lynn, Start Your Own Restaurant and More (Entrepreneur Press, 2006)
Source: Foodservice Equipment Warehouse