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Connectivity is key to serving millennial diners, chain chefs say

3 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Panelists Hallowell, Curry and Vitry at NRA Show 2015 (Photo: Tricia Smith)

Restaurants of all sizes and types are trying to tap into the millennial mindset in order to appeal to the influential demographic. Connecting with these tech-savvy, food-loving consumers is key to attracting their business and earning their brand loyalty, chain restaurant chefs said during a panel discussion Sunday at the National Restaurant Association Show.

“It’s really about that connectivity and making a connection with our brand and our guests … they want to feel that connection all throughout their choice,” said Heidi Curry, senior manager of global R&D for bakery at Dunkin’ Brands.

Eateries can foster a connection with millennial consumers in a variety of ways, both in the restaurant and before and after a customer comes in to dine.

Being active on social media and having an engaging, dynamic web presence can go a long way toward reaching millennial consumers, who are interested in brands’ backstories and hearing about why brands and products align with their lifestyle.

Dunkin’ Brands uses its blog, Behind the Beans, to share stories and recipes that encourage consumers to interact with the brand outside of the store. On its Hut Life blog, Pizza Hut publishes profiles of team members and news about restaurant technology.

Dominique Vitry, director of research and development for Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands said the blog helps the brand maintain a conversation with its millennial consumers.

“I would say the great thing about this young consumer is they don’t take anything for granted. They fully believe that if they think it, it can happen, and if they don’t like the way something is done today they are vocal about it and they expect who they are communicating with to listen,” she said.

This two-way communication is key to reaching millennial consumers and ensuring their repeat business. While starting the conversation may seem daunting, many restaurant brands may already have plenty of stories that would captivate a millennial audience, Christian Hallowell, executive chef for Delta Airlines at Gate Group, said.

“There’s a lot of stories [about things] that you probably do every day that you don’t tell. We just figured this out the other day. We’re doing this huge, great sustainable fish purchasing program with Alaska fisheries and it’s this great story to tell and we’re not even talking about it…it’s about looking at something we already do and telling the story that’s going to relate back to those groups,” Hallowell said.

Connecting with millennial consumers is essential for restaurants for reasons beyond capturing sales. Millennials are changing the restaurant landscape and setting expectations not just for their own generation, but for future generations as well, and brands would be wise to listen to what they have to say, the panelists agreed.

“A millennium is the anniversary of a thousand years, and that’s how I like to think we look at the consumer of today … how can we help them be that hope and promise of the future that they see and how can they help us continue to be a great brand into the next thousand years,” Vitri said.


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