Restaurant guests between the ages of 21 and 28, known as the Millennial generation, want a social experience above all else when visiting restaurants or bars, according to new consumer research presented by Dennis Lombardi and Michelle Fenstermaker of WD Partners during the 2010 Cheers Beverage Conference held in Miami this past January.
The research, which compared Millennials with the Baby Boomer generation, discovered that Millennials care more than Boomers about having a range of seating options when dining out so everyone in their party can be accommodated, and that they care more about flexible seating and outdoor seating options. Both groups prefer booth seating, but young guests are far more interested in lounge-style seating.
Likewise, noted Lombardi, the study found that Millennials were far more likely than Boomers to appreciate a bar that also serves food, with 51 percent saying that such bars have an advantage while only 31 percent of Boomers agreed. Boomers were more likely to favor restaurants that included a bar, whereas Millennials were less interested in fine dining and far more amenable than Boomers to bars that only served drinks or were speciality bar concepts. Lombardi attributed this preference to the open social atmosphere cultivated by bars.
While food is the single most important aspect of the dining experience for many Boomers, according the study, with 61 percent of Boomers citing food as important versus only half of Millennials, the dining establishment is more of a gathering spot for Millennials. As a result, the study found that price was the most important factor for Millennials, with 66 percent citing price as opposed to 51 percent for Boomers. Drink specials also are more important for Millennials by a wide margin, with 42 percent reporting that specials are an important factor while only 28 percent of Boomers agreed.
Although not necessarily music to the ears of many chain restaurant beverage directors in attendance, Lombardi said that only 28 percent of Millennials favor full-service restaurant bars, whereas 56 percent of Boomers who were surveyed did. He went on to relate a comment by one 28-year-old survey participant who typified the response: “That’s just not where I meet my friends when we get together. Taps always suck at [chain casual restaurants].”
The study also found that Millennials are far more likely than Boomers to frequent restaurants and bars that feature happy hours, 48 to 28 percent respectively, and that they’d be interested in happy hours that are offered after 9 p.m. while Boomers showed little interest.
Knowledge is more important for Millennials, who are looking for an experience when they eat out, while Boomers tend to privilege consistency. The study found that while both groups favored fast and personable service, Millennials were more interested in a knowledgeable staff while Boomers generally care more about consistent drink preparation.
Along those lines, Millennials visit restaurant and bar web sites looking for hours of operation, special events and photos of the concept, while Boomers visit more often to examine the concept’s menu.
In terms of drink preferences, Millennials tend toward cocktails, with 66 percent reporting a preference for cocktails while only 43 percent of Boomers did. Beer also is favored by Millennials compared with Boomers, 36 percent to 27 percent respectively, with wine being a more popular chose for Boomers, with 44 percent saying they preferred wine while only 30 percent of Millennials said the same.