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Regardless of age, everybody loves to eat. Although plenty of people may share the same favorite foods and restaurants, they may have completely different eating habits. You may be surprised at how different the eating habits are between the two largest American generations of the last few centuries — the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. With so many hungry mouths to feed, it’s important that all restaurants not only acknowledge the differences in their eating habits but also cater to them correctly.

Whether you’re a full-service restaurant, a quick-service restaurant, or a busy bar, you need to attract and retain hungry patrons so you can drive up your revenue. Full stomachs create happy smiles, and Mad Mobile’s simple technology solutions are designed to help you find the right ingredients for success. Let’s take a look at the eating habits of these two generations and how to sufficiently cater to their behaviors.

Generations Driving the Most Foot Traffic and Revenue for Restaurants

Demographers divide people born since the turn of the 20th century into six distinct generations:

  • Greatest Generation: 1901 — 1924
  • Silent Generation: 1925 — 1942
  • Baby Boomers: 1943 — 1964
  • Generation X: 1965 — 1979
  • Millennials: 1980 — 2000
  • Generation Z: 2001 — 2013

1. Baby Boomers

The Baby Boomers have always been a large generation. Born just after the end of World War II, parents of the Baby Boomers ranged from young couples to older partners who had refrained from having children due to the Great Depression. This generation was born into a fruitful economy and, generally, are confident about their future. Although the Baby Boomer generation is the largest of the six above, the Millennial generation is projected to overtake them as the largest living adult generation in the country.

2. Millennials

Also known as Generation Y, the Millennials are a group of men and women who experienced substantial changes to their lifestyles within a few years. As young children, many used landline phones or dial-up internet connections only to transition to high-speed internet capabilities built into portable devices within a decade. They also saw the nation change as a result of 9/11 and the recession of 2008. Millennials came of age in a world where the internet became a way of life and industries struggled to adapt to these changes.

3. Generation Z

Ushered in after the turn of the millennium, the members of Generation Z are sometimes known as the “post-Millennials.” This group was born into a world where the internet was integrated into nearly every aspect of life. Though the evolution of technology gave rise to the popularity of social media, Generation Z migrates towards platforms that offer more anonymity. Generation Z is often categorized as more pragmatic and more inclined to embrace multiculturalism.

While it remains to be seen what dining habits Generation Z will reflect, we can identify and understand the food trends of the Baby Boomers and Millennials.

Baby Boomer Dining Habits

Between 1943 and 1964, there were over 78 million births throughout the country. These individuals also have the largest spending power — billions more than even Generation X, Y, and Z combined. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re lining up to spend big on the latest fusion cuisine from the farthest parts of the globe. Baby Boomers tend to know what they want, how much they’re comfortable spending, and where to get a meal that satisfies their appetite and expectations.


1. Where do Baby Boomers Eat?

Where does the largest generation go when they want to eat away from home? In essence, someplace where they feel comfortable and cared for. Although Baby Boomers are not opposed to using technology for instances like ordering their meals online, they are not likely to use mobile apps or kiosks for ordering and paying for their meals. They value face-to-face interactions and will place an importance on customer service, especially in settings where they expect to be paying for quality service along with a fine meal.

Every person dining at any restaurant hopes that their food is prepared in a clean environment. Baby Boomers tend to pay closer attention to hygiene habits when they go out to eat. More than 60 percent claim that restaurant cleanliness is of high importance. They aren’t only looking for clean tables and sparkling floors, they also take into consideration the condition of the establishment’s restrooms and silverware. Dirty or neglected spaces and lack of resources in any eatery can significantly deter Baby Boomers.

Customer service, cleanliness, and value are expectations that are not forgotten by the Baby Boomer generation. Even though they will break from routine to try new restaurants that serve variations of their familiar favorites, Baby Boomers are also brand loyal. More than 30 percent will revisit their preferred restaurants when eating out. If Baby Boomers believe they’re receiving the food quality, service, and atmosphere they are paying for, they are likely to keep coming back for the same value and experience.


2. What do Baby Boomers Eat?

Believe it or not, Baby Boomers are actually the group driving the clean-eating food trend, not Millennials. They are not likely to follow the same restrictive dieting programs as other generations — like structured calorie counting or a cruelty-free diet — but they are putting a purposeful focus on clean eating. Healthier food options, even as simple as a tasty variety of fruits and vegetables paired with many of their favorite staples or comfort foods, are ideal for their appetites.

Labels and meal descriptions are not as valuable as actually serving healthy dishes. Compared to restaurant-goers of other ages, Baby Boomers aren’t as influenced by terms like gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian, and less than half of them are called to action by phrases like locally sourced and low calorie. Simply having a salad that is made with “fresh ingredients” is more impacting than knowing that the vegetables were grown and harvested from a local farm.

3. How Often do Baby Boomers Eat Out?

More than half of Baby Boomers eat out weekly, which includes dining-in, carry-out, and delivery. Because of their focus on customer service and value, they are more inclined to order and eat their meal at the restaurant. They are also pickier about their takeout options. The service and food they receive influence the quality of their experience. Baby Boomers expect their pickup orders to be correct, and they expect their meals to be of the same quality and taste as if they were dining in.

4. Baby Boomer Behavioral Dining Trends

Baby Boomers will use technology to help them choose their meals but not in the same ways that other generations will. They are more interested in browsing websites for menus and specials rather than using social media to read reviews for a new restaurant. The convenience of ordering takeout — which amounts to over one-third of their restaurant ordering — must also translate to their preferred virtual engagement. Baby Boomers will choose website browsing above mobile browsing, and fewer will use mobile apps.


5. How to Attract More Baby Boomers to Your Restaurant

Value is key for attracting Baby Boomers to your restaurant. Although they do possess a more significant spending power than other generations, they may not always be the top spenders among your dining crowd. However, food quality and value should not be confused with cheap. Though over half of these individuals do consider low priced menu options to be important, more consider value for their expense to be a higher priority. Having affordably priced menu options that are familiar, along with appealing alternatives, is necessary.

Baby Boomers know the type of dining experience they want and are prepared to seek out the eatery that caters to their interests. Keeping familiar foods on the menu is a must but don’t be afraid to add new tastes to their plate. Though you should prioritize recognizable entrees that these individuals want, you can modify the menu by offering side dishes that are not considered staples. For instance, you can remove the side of french fries from a meatloaf dinner and supplement it with a less familiar item that pairs well with the entree.

These diners will be pleased that your menu has what they’re looking for, and many will opt to try your new side items. Many of these men and women are interested in expanding their culinary horizons. Over 30 percent of them prefer to eat at a restaurant that serves a mix of familiar foods and innovative alternatives. Their appreciation for value will sky-rocket if you offer these items in small or shareable plate options. This encourages them to try new foods with a lower perception of risking disappointment.

Millennial Dining Habits

Today, research estimates that there are 73 million Millennials in the United States. Compare that to the current estimate of 72 million Baby Boomers, and you’ll easily see that these different demographics command nearly an equal share of your attention. Some Millennials are nearing 40-years-old while others are just now entering their 20s. With a single group occupying significantly different positions in life, it’s essential that restaurant owners and operators understand how to cater accurately to the needs of a generation that may include college students and working parents.


1. Where do Millennials Eat?

Millennials are seeking out unique dining experiences that cater to their personal interests. While some look to explore culture through ethnic foods, others will want to fill their plate with foods that are locally sourced. They connect with these businesses online socially, sharing photos of their food and discussing dining with others. Affordability, convenience, and customization are three elements that this generation values and they’ll seek out establishments that can provide these aspects — whether it’s at a fine dining restaurant, communal fast-casual eatery, or even a food truck.

2. What do Millennials Eat?

Millennials are as diverse as the plates they crave. They are often open-minded and curious about new flavors and foods. Although 81 percent of these men and women are highly interested in clean or healthy foods, they are willing to try virtually anything that caters to their appetite including snack foods that offer some nutritional benefit that balances out their indulgence. For instance, they may choose to eat a higher calorie meal or snack that is made with natural ingredients versus artificial ingredients.


3. How Often do Millennials Eat Out?

Millennials love eating out. Whether they dine-in, order take-out, or pop into a cafe for a coffee or a bar for a brew, Millennials are filling their stomachs with food from anywhere except their fridge. In fact, visiting trendy cafes, exploring new eateries, and hanging out in gastropubs has become a popular social event. Grabbing food or drinks is a characteristic of their culture as much as it is a choice of convenience. Just how often are Millennials eating out? Consider these statistics:

  • Nearly one in three Millennials purchases coffee at least three times a week.
  • Over half of Millennials visit a bar at least once a week.
  • More than half of Millennials eat at a restaurant at least three times a week.

Why are they visiting so many establishments within a week? Socialization and convenience. Millennials value eating out because it is convenient for their lifestyle, especially since it eliminates the requirement to purchase, cook, and clean up after every meal. Full-service restaurants and small pubs alike offer a gathering place for Millennials to socialize with friends while eating. Foodie culture, which includes sharing photos of food via social media, acts as another draw for Millennials to forego the fridge for an envy-inducing meal at a local hot-spot.


4. Millennial Behavioral Dining Trends

Compared to the diners of other generations, more Millennials are eating out at a higher frequency than other groups. This occurs across all eateries including quick-service restaurants like fast food chains, fast-casual restaurants like cafes, and casual-dining restaurants like sports bars and diners. More than half of Millennials go out to eat at least once a week. Other Millennial trends include the following:

  • They eat later than other generations. Due to their diverse schedules which often include work-life or school-life integration as opposed to separation, Millennials tend to skip traditional mealtimes, snack throughout the day and eat larger meals when they find it more convenient for their schedule.
  • They love practical options. With a busy schedule comes the need for quick and efficient food options. Millennials with limited time to eat will seek out their desired meals at food service establishments that make ordering fast and easy.
  • They stay connected to the digital world when eating. Even quick lunches or coffee breaks can be dubbed worthy of a status update. Millennials will engage with brands that offer an opportunity for connecting over social media.


5. How to Attract More Millennials to Your Restaurant

Millennials acknowledge and embrace their freedom to choose between many food service options. To attract and retain this group of diners to your restaurant, you’ll need to cater to them in ways that integrate with their desires and lifestyle. Millennials seek more from their food experience than a meal, which is why they passionately follow brands that stand for social causes and are engaging with customers outside of the restaurant experience on social media or through shared philanthropic interests.

Diversity in food can be translated in several different ways. While many Millennials crave global cuisine, others will desire alternative options that belong to categories like organic, locally sourced and vegan. A transparent menu that uses phrases like “sourced from sustainable local farms” and “no GMOs” are just as appealing as meal options that tout diverse cultural flavors. For instance, a Croatian dish is more specific than a Mediterranean fare, and an offering of a Nicaraguan-style nacatamal is a more exciting prospect than a traditional Mexican-style tamale.

Another element of the dining experience is their level of comfort. Many Millennials consider eating out a social activity, which means they desire places where they’ll feel welcomed and accepted. Hip or trendy concepts are useful, but this group also requires setting that better aligns with busy schedules and unique lifestyles. Restaurants that accommodate young children or that offer a variety of takeout or delivery options are appealing because it conveniently integrates with their lifestyle.

Mad Mobile Benefits

Everybody eats, but unfortunately, not everybody has a pleasant experience while they’re dining out. Thankfully, you can easily increase and maintain the happiness of your patrons with Mad Mobile’s versatile solutions. We’ve designed dynamic solutions that solve the complex problems that restaurants of all sizes encounter. We understand that the generational eating habits and diverse food trends of Baby Boomers and Millennials require you to create unique strategies that acutely cater to their distinctive expectations and appetites. Mad Mobile products deliver reliable solutions designed specifically for the food industry.

Simplify your operations with Mad Mobile’s Restaurant Point of Sale System (POS). Easy to use and even easier to customize, our POS System is durable and portable, enabling you to accept orders and payments from anywhere in the store. Our quick, convenient OrderPad speeds up transaction time while enhancing order accuracy. Customers from all demographics can rest easy knowing that their orders are correct and that they can settle their bill without having to wait in a long checkout line.

Never worry about losing a table or a reservation again with our Guest Management System. Designed to improve your waitlist management process, you can instantly accept online reservations and view your guest’s visit history to ensure you’re giving your loyal patrons special acknowledgment. The Guest Management System also helps you manage your active tables. You can manage sections, view real-time table status, and allow guests to save their place in a convenient virtual queue. Our optimal waitlist solution will increase your guest seating by up to 7 percent.

Online ordering is growing exponentially faster than dining-in traffic, but the Mad Mobile Online Ordering system effortlessly helps you keep up with these trends. Integrating seamlessly with our POS, Online Ordering can be added directly to your website or social media page where guests can order and pay with a few short clicks. Save money spent on third-party fees and ensure order accuracy by keeping the satisfaction of your virtual customers under your management. Online ordering can dramatically increase your revenue without distracting you from your in-house guests.

Combine our POS, Guest Management, and Online Ordering systems for the ultimate enhancement of customer satisfaction. Busy Millennials will love the quick convenience of online ordering that allows them to grab their favorite meal and go. In-house diners will appreciate paying their tab directly at their table, giving them more time to relax after a delicious meal. Keep Millennials and Baby Boomers alike coming back by sending them exclusive offers and promotions through Guest Management. They’ll appreciate a sweet deal as much as you appreciate their loyalty.

Dining habits and trends may change, but your reputation for amazing service doesn’t have to. As Baby Boomers and Millennials continue to eat out, they’ll return to the restaurants that offer value, variety, and versatile ways to order their food. By integrating Mad Mobile technology solutions into your establishment, you can increase your revenue and provide all-star service that caters to Millennials and Baby Boomers alike. Call Mad Mobile today to learn more about the benefits our products can provide your bar or pub and full-service or quick-service restaurant.

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