By Jennifer Gausby
During my recent travels to Portugal I visited a restaurant that encouraged me to forget about time. On the back of the menu was a note from the owner that read: “Please stop your watch. Seize the moment.” He then went on to quote Andy Warhol, who said: “The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.”
Rather than reverting to my regular routine of reaching for my phone to connect to WiFi, I turned it off and sat back to enjoy one of my most memorable restaurant experiences. This trend towards discouraging (and even banning) cell phone use in restaurants seems to be growing, but is it of concern that customers from the Millennial generation might experience something akin to “phantom limb” syndrome?
A new way of connecting
Although reliance on technology seems to have shortened the attention spans of Millennials (those born between the late 1980s and 1990s) it doesn’t mean they’ve been converted into robots — they still crave the time to develop their personal relationships. In fact, according to a recent article in Forbes magazine, “NOwnership, No Problem: Why Millennials Value Experiences Over Owning Things,” Millennials are generally more experience-oriented than older demographics, choosing to spend more of their time and finances on living in the moment, including social occasions. Dining out is an easy way for Millennials to connect — even if they do take intermittent breaks in the conversation to share the moment with their wider community online.
Millennials’ lives are technically (pun intended) more social than previous generations. Through friending on Facebook, following on Twitter or Instagram and connecting on LinkedIn, they’re better set up with the tools to build and maintain larger and more connected communities.
Make Millennials your advocates
Some restaurateurs are concerned with longer table turnover times caused by Millennials’ mobile usage. Their need to ensure they’re connected to WiFi, take the perfect picture of their food before taking the first bite, check in on Facebook and Foursquare so their whereabouts is known, and of course, share pictures of the food they’re about to eat to make others salivate over Instagram, seems to be growing.
According to recent BrandSpark research, Millennials are more likely than older customers to post online reviews about their experience and share photos with their community on the fastest growing social media app, Instagram. They’re also more likely to be early adopters – trying new products, keeping their eyes open for something new and different and ultimately, wanting to pave the way for friends and family in terms of new products and experiences.
But having them so connected isn’t all bad. It’s important to note that this online connectedness is a way in which Millennials are advocating your restaurant, as long as you do a good job and can avoid a ‘hangry’ tone. And while a few isolated cases exist (and generate buzz), most Millennials don’t linger too long – they also want to eat their food while it’s still hot.
Let them share
Recent Restaurants Canada research also indicates Millennials are a more food-centric group, with a stronger love of dining out (as well as grocery shopping) and are more “in the know” about restaurant options. They’re much more likely to visit restaurant websites (85 per cent), visit social media pages (48 per cent), and follow restaurants on Twitter (29 per cent). Millennials are even more likely to give out their e-mail address to hear about events at your restaurant, all making it increasingly important for restaurants to have a strong digital presence.
So how do you draw in Millennials and get them to talk about you? Overall, offering a unique menu and an alluring atmosphere that allows Millennials to hang out and share a meal is most important. Pique interest by offering something different and give them something to talk (or post) about. Educational sessions, tastings, pairings, and quiz nights are all great enticing events. Or perhaps simply give them the option to disconnect – suggesting they put away their phone, unwind, forget about time and absorb the experience with their loved ones. But at the end of the day, if they are really excited about what you have to offer and want to share their excitement with their community, why would you want to stop them?
About the author
Jennifer Gausby is marketing research manager at BrandSpark International, a leading brand, marketing, and product innovation research company with more than 10 years’ experience in the restaurant industry. For more information, visit www.brandspark.com.