Why millennials don’t matter in foodservice — revisited

OK, I admit that the concept of “marketing to millennials” is not only a pet peeve of mine, my disdain for the idea borders on the obsessive.

Every day in my email box I receive another “How to capture the illusive millennial” notice as if we marketers are chasing the Sasquatch of foodservice.  I wrote about the topic months ago thinking it would be a fad soon to be forgotten.

Alas, it’s only gotten worse.  “Marketing to millennials” is demeaning much like suggestions that we market based on race or religion (because, you know, all people of various races or religions must be the same, right?).

It does make sense to invest in practical efforts that make a product more marketable — whether it’s having Spanish instructions or being Kosher certified.  But these are features that make no mass generalization about a culture or demographic who might ultimately enjoy the food!

Food is one of the few things that crosses generational boundaries — along with air and water!  So, why would we limit ourselves as marketers to suggest any particular cuisine or product is millennial approved?

Case in point.  I recently was chatting to an older acquaintance who was lamenting the fact that millennials who work at his company have a different attitude.  “They” have a care-free work ethic.  “They” don’t want to work long hours.  Loyalty is not in part of “their” character.

And, according to my buddy, they have no qualms of going out to nicer restaurants and dropping lots of cash.  Meanwhile, on the rare occasion he goes out for lunch, he’s satisfied with eating at Taco Bell where food is fast and inexpensive.

The irony was overwhelming.  Taco Bell (the alleged haven for all millennials) is the favorite joint of this 60-something male.  And all his minions are dropping $20 bucks each at local mom-and-pop eatery that is the bastion of “baby boomers.”

The conversation served as a good reminder that we marketers need to focus on the food and experience.  People across all ages, sexes, races and religions may show up because of what’s being served and how — and not because they are part of some arbitrary group.

OK, I’m going to go have a craft beer to settle down.  Oh, wait, that’s a millennial thing… I can’t do that.


P.S.  Check out the short video commentary about the millennial subject from a guy who counts many younger people among his biggest fans.